Diabetes screening a focus in the north

14 July 2020

14 July 2020

Diabetes clinicians at the Lyell McEwin Hospital are throwing their support behind Diabetes Awareness Week and urging South Australians to be screened for the condition.

Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN) Head of Diabetes and Endocrine Services, Dr Anthony Zimmermann, said diabetes screening was especially important for people in the northern suburbs.

“The Northern Adelaide region has one of the highest numbers of people per postcode in Australia with diabetes,” Dr Zimmermann said.

“For example Elizabeth has a diabetes prevalence of 9.5 per cent compared with the national average of 5.2 per cent.

“More than half a million Australians are living with undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes and it is important that our consumers are aware of risk factors for developing diabetes  as well as the signs and symptoms to look out for, so they can go and get tested.

“We know early diagnosis paired with ongoing management and support are key to reducing the risk of diabetes complications, which is why it is concerning that many people go undiagnosed for long periods of time without even realising they are unwell.

“People with Type 2 diabetes often do not have any symptoms but they may experience blurred vision, tiredness, and excessive thirst, while symptoms for Type 1 Diabetes can occur suddenly and may include excessive thirst, frequent urination, excessive hunger, acetone breath and unexplained weakness and fatigue.

“Pregnant women are also more vulnerable and if left unmanaged, diabetes can increase the risk of large birth weight babies at risk of jaundice and respiratory distress, birth defects and miscarriage.”

Through the NALHN Diabetes Education Unit, consumers can check their risk of developing diabetes, and typically, the unit would do this by providing printed calculators to consumers coming into hospital.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and fewer people physically coming to hospital, consumers have been encouraged to use Diabetes Australia’s online risk calculator. If a score indicates a high risk of developing the disease, the next step is to speak to a GP to be screened.

Nurse Educator, Brooke Frith, said NALHN is committed to delivering services tailored to meet the health needs of the community in the most effective and efficient way.

“Our Unit provides both an assessment and management service for Diabetes conditions that are beyond the scope of general practice and primary care, whilst also offering team led clinics for consumers,” Ms Frith said.

“These clinics improve access for people with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes where they can be seen by an Endocrinologist, nurse educator and dietitian at the same time in one appointment, meaning consumers and our clinicians can be more efficient with their time.

“We also offer special expertise in the use of technology in managing diabetes such as use of mobile phone apps, pumps and continuous glucose monitoring.

“This year, the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) introduced a new subsidy for eligible people with Type 1 Diabetes, including pregnant women, to access free continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), making it easier for people who have been diagnosed to monitor their own blood glucose levels.

“The portable CGM devices reduce the amount of daily finger pricks needed to check blood glucose levels with the ability to scan and provide levels, sending data to mobile phones and in some cases directly to insulin pumps, making it easier for people to monitor their own blood glucose levels.

“COVID-19 has presented us with a number of challenges in how we manage diabetes in our community but we have been able to continue to assist our consumers and be innovative in how we deliver our care.

“This includes offering drive-through appointments for the elderly and seeing pregnant women through tele-health appointments to help them manage their CGM devices.”