Sarah Mattson, 19, has been managing diabetes most of her life and she urges others to consider getting tested and to keep on top of their health this National Diabetes Week (July 14-20).
Sarah Mattson, 19, has been managing diabetes most of her life and she urges others to consider getting tested and to keep on top of their health this National Diabetes Week (July 14-20). Warren Lynam

More than one new case every day of incurable disease

SARAH Mattson has been living with type 1 diabetes since she was just five.

She doesn't remember a life without it.

But the countless daily blood tests, the insulin pump with a needle constantly attached and an active lifestyle have become the norm for the now 19-year-old.

Sarah said one of the difficult things living with the auto-immune condition, which occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, was primary school birthday parties.

"As funny as it may seem, whenever there was a school birthday they'd bring cupcakes, sweets, all the good stuff and because I was diabetic everyone assumed I couldn't have sugar," she said.

"Even though I knew I could... they would tell me I couldn't have a cupcake."

The otherwise healthy Caloundra teenager has managed her diabetes perfectly for almost 15 years.

She urged others to take their health just as seriously.

"It's really important that I look after myself now so my body is healthy and OK for the future," she said.

"I've met so many diabetics who didn't take care of themselves as kids and have health issues now.

"So I've always kept that in the back of my mind."

 

LIVING WITH TYPE ONE: Sarah Mattson, 19, has been managing diabetes most of her life and she urges others to consider getting tested and to keep on top of their health.
LIVING WITH TYPE ONE: Sarah Mattson, 19, has been managing diabetes most of her life and she urges others to consider getting tested and to keep on top of their health. Warren Lynam

While it's not known what causes type 1, it has no cure and no prevention. But it's not linked to any modifiable lifestyle factors like type 2.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service director of diabetes Dr Michael Sillars said a lifestyle like Sarah's was key to managing all types of the disease.

Dr Sillars said there were 434 new cases of both types recorded on the Sunshine Coast last year, with about 16,500 people registered with the National Diabetes Services Scheme.

According to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare admitted patient care 2017-18 report, the number of potentially preventable hospitalisations due to diabetes complications has risen four per cent.

But Dr Sillars predicted this was far from the exact amount as there were a "significant portion" of people who were undiagnosed.

He said about 1000 people on the Coast were hospitalised primarily due to their diabetes on the Coast. About 20,000 admissions were diabetes related, whether that be heart disease, stroke or infections.

While it is "obviously extremely common", many people still underestimate the effects of untreated type 2 diabetes.

SYMPTOMS

 

Frequent urination

Extreme thirst, hunger

Weight loss or gain

Fatigue

Blurred vision

Slow healing wounds

Numbness or pain in hands or feet

Dr Sillars said type 2 was harder to diagnose as symptoms generally remained mild or undetectable for years.

"Don't wait for a complication or symptom to occur," he said. "If it's treated well and aggressively early... there'll be a much better outcome in the future in regards to your health."

Dr Sillars said it was very different to be a prescriber now than "10 or so years ago" as medical professionals had access to more tools.

"We have more to offer patients on top of the usual diet and exercise, which can't be ignored as the predominant thrust of our treatment options. It's not one size fits all for diabetes."

Diabetes Australia has launched its 'It's About Time' campaign for National Diabetes Week to encourage early detection and early, optimal treatment of type 2 diabetes.

"The big thing is assessing your risk. They recommend everyone over the age of 40 do the online risk assessment," Dr Sillars said.

"The 60 or 70-year-old self will thank you for putting the effort in now."

You can find out more about diabetes or check your risk of developing type 2 diabetes here: diabetesaustralia.com.au/risk-calculator.



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