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Updated 9 June 2023 | Approved By

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Diabetes – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that is caused by high blood sugar levels. It occurs when the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or can't effectively use the insulin it produces. Diabetes requires lifelong management through proper medication, healthy eating, regular physical activity, and monitoring of blood sugar levels through your doctor. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in twenty Australians has diabetes [1]. The risk of this condition significantly increases in Australians above 55. At 24-7 Medcare, we provide accessible healthcare services, including virtual consultations, to assist individuals with diabetes in managing their condition. Our experienced GPs can offer guidance, diagnosis and treatment options within the convenience of your own home.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a medical condition that affects how our bodies use a sugar called glucose [2]. Glucose is the main source of energy for our cells. When we eat food, our bodies break down carbohydrates into glucose, which is then transported to our cells through the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that helps control the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin acts like a key that unlocks the doors of our cells, allowing glucose to enter and be used for energy. However, in people with diabetes, there isn't enough insulin, or the body doesn't use it properly [3]. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of being taken up by the cells. This leads to high blood sugar levels, which can cause various health problems if left unmanaged.

Types of Diabetes

There are three common types of diabetes in Australia. Diabetes type 1, diabetes type 2 and gestational diabetes are all conditions that result in improper insulin function. However, they are caused by different reasons.

Diabetes Type 1

Type 1 diabetes usually develops during childhood or adolescence. In this type, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. As a result, the body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't make any at all.

Diabetes Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is more common and typically occurs in adulthood, although it can also affect younger individuals. In type 2 diabetes, the body still produces insulin, but it doesn't use it effectively. This is called insulin resistance. Over time, the pancreas may struggle to produce enough insulin to meet the body's needs.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It affects how the body processes glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels. This condition usually resolves after giving birth, but it can increase the risk of complications for the mother and the baby if not properly managed.

Diabetes Symptoms and Signs

There are several common symptoms and signs of diabetes. It's important to note that these symptoms may not always indicate diabetes, and some people with diabetes may not experience any noticeable symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these signs or have concerns about diabetes, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.
  • Frequent urination, even disrupting sleep during the night.
  • Being constantly thirsty
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Being fatigued
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing of wounds, cuts or sores
  • Tingling or numbness, particularly in the hands and feet.


What Causes Diabetes?

The causes of diabetes will vary depending on the diagnosis.. The section below will go through the causes of common types of diabetes.

Causes of Diabetes Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The exact cause of this immune response is still not fully understood. Specific genes are associated with an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, specifically the HLA-DQ and HLA-DR genes [4], significantly determine susceptibility to the disease. While genetics play a significant role, it's important to note that not everyone with genetic risk factors will develop type 1 diabetes.

Causes of Diabetes Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is often linked to lifestyle factors such as unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, and being overweight or obese. Genetics also play a role in both types of diabetes, as having a family history of the disease can increase the risk.

Causes of Gestiational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy that make the body resistant to insulin or unable to produce enough insulin. The hormones produced by the placenta can interfere with insulin's effectiveness in regulating blood sugar levels. Although gestational diabetes typically resolves after giving birth, it increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Regular screening and adopting a healthy lifestyle are essential for managing this condition. Additional risk factors for gestational diabetes include [5]:
  • Being overweight
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Being older than 25
  • Being from certain ethnicities (including African, Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander descent.


Diabetes Tests and Diagnosis

There are several methods to determine if a person has diabetes. Doctors use these tests to evaluate blood sugar levels and determine how well the body processes glucose. It's important to note that these tests are not done in isolation. To make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will consider multiple factors, including symptoms, medical history, and the results of these tests.

Fasting Plasma Glucose Tests

The fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test is commonly used to diagnose diabetes [6]. It measures the glucose level in the blood after fasting for at least 8 hours. The test involves a simple blood test that is usually performed in the morning. An FPG test level above specific values could lead to diabetes. This test helps healthcare professionals assess how the body handles glucose and determine if further evaluation and treatment are necessary.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is another way to diagnose diabetes [7]. During this test, a person drinks a glucose solution, and their blood sugar levels are measured before and after two hours. It helps healthcare professionals assess how the body processes glucose over time. The OGTT is particularly useful in diagnosing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test

The hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test is used to assess average blood sugar levels over two to three months [8]. It measures the percentage of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells coated with sugar molecules. The test does not require fasting and involves a simple blood test. An HBA1c above a certain percentage may indicate diabetes. This test is helpful in monitoring long-term blood sugar control and evaluating the effectiveness of diabetes management strategies.

Diabetes Treatment

Diabetes treatment aims to manage blood sugar levels and prevent complications. The treatment plan depends on the type of diabetes and individual needs.

Diabetes Type 1 Treatment

Diabetes type 1 treatment involves the lifelong use of insulin, as the body doesn't produce enough. Insulin is administered through daily injections using a syringe, insulin pen, or insulin pump. Regular blood sugar monitoring helps determine if insulin doses need adjustment, and continuous glucose monitoring devices provide real-time readings [9]. A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and close collaboration with healthcare professionals are essential for effective management of type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes Type 2 Treatment

Diabetes type 2 treatment involves adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and closely monitoring blood sugar levels [10]. A balanced diet with controlled portions of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is important, while sugary foods and drinks should be limited. Regular exercise helps control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to assist the body in using insulin effectively or to stimulate insulin production. Working closely with healthcare professionals is crucial for developing an individualised treatment plan for managing type 2 diabetes effectively.

Gestational Diabetes Treatment

Gestational diabetes treatment involves making lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy meal plan and engaging in regular physical activity, to manage blood sugar levels during pregnancy [11]. Insulin therapy may be necessary for some women to control blood sugar effectively. Monitoring blood sugar levels regularly using a glucose meter is essential. Regular prenatal check-ups and consultations with healthcare professionals provide guidance and support throughout treatment.


If left untreated, diabetes can lead to complications, such as [12]:
  • Diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss and blindness
  • Cardiovascular disease (e.g. heart disease, stroke, heart attack etc.)
  • Kidney issues
  • Nerve damage
  • Foot complications, such as infection, diabetic foot ulcers and even amputation
  • Skin issues, such as dry skin, itching and fungal infections
  • Increased risk of infections (e.g. urinary tract infections, yeast infections, etc.)
  • Mental health issues
  • Sexual dysfunction


Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.

To make a telehealth appointment booking, simply click on the button below.




  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2022). Diabetes, 2020-21. Retrieved from
  2. Diabetes Australia. (n.d.). What is diabetes? Retrieved from
  3. Banday, M. Z., Sameer, A. S., & Nissar, S. (2020). Pathophysiology of diabetes: An overview. Avicenna journal of medicine, 10(04), 174-188.
  4. Erlich, H., Valdes, A. M., Noble, J., Carlson, J. A., Varney, M., Concannon, P., ... & Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium. (2008). HLA DR-DQ haplotypes and genotypes and type 1 diabetes risk: analysis of the type 1 diabetes genetics consortium families. Diabetes, 57(4), 1084-1092.
  5. Cypryk, K., Szymczak, W., Czupryniak, L., Sobczak, M., & Lewiński, A. (2008). Gestational diabetes mellitus-an analysis of risk factors. Endokrynologia Polska, 59(5), 393-397.
  6. Australia, D. (2020). Management of type 2 diabetes: A handbook for general practice. Melbourne, Australia: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Ltd.
  7. Phillips, P. J. (2012). Oral glucose tolerance testing. Australian family physician, 41(6), 391-393.
  8. Pyrlis, F., Brown, F., & Ekinci, E. I. (2019). Recent advances in management of type 1 diabetes. Australian journal of general practice, 48(5), 256-261.
  9. Pyrlis, F., Brown, F., & Ekinci, E. I. (2019). Recent advances in management of type 1 diabetes. Australian journal of general practice, 48(5), 256-261.
  10. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. (2020). Management of type 2 diabetes: a handbook for general practice.
  11. Nankervis, A., Price, S., & Conn, J. (2018). Gestational diabetes mellitus: A pragmatic approach to diagnosis and management. Australian journal of general practice, 47(7), 445-449.
  12. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Diabetes: Australian facts. Retrieved from