Type 2 diabetes often goes undiagnosed because the signs can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know.


Australian diabetes rates have more than doubled since 1990. There are now 1.2 million Australians diagnosed with the condition, with 85-90% of these cases being type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a health condition where the levels of glucose in the blood are too high. Blood glucose levels are normally regulated by a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas. In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, or stops producing enough.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

While the exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown, there are lifestyle factors that can contribute to it.

The increase in overall diabetes levels is believed to be due to rising obesity rates, with two thirds of Australian adults and one in four Australian children now classified as overweight or obese.

Type 2 diabetes is also more common in people with a family history of the disease.

Read more about your risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Signs of type 2 diabetes

Dr Linda Swan, Medibank Chief Medical Officer, says, "The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can often be attributed to other health or environmental factors. As a result, diabetes can go undetected and therefore have damaging health consequences”.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being more thirsty than usual
  • Passing more urine than usual
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Having cuts that heal slowly
  • Itching and skin infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Leg cramps

Preventing type 2 diabetes

The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is still unknown and there is no cure, however the good news is that the condition can often be prevented or delayed by making early lifestyle changes. Being overweight or obese, a poor diet, lack of physical activity, having high blood pressure, or a family history of the disease, can all greatly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Adopting healthy habits isn’t always easy at first, but it’s worth the effort. Eating a balanced diet, limiting processed foods and alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and avoiding or quitting smoking can all help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. As you get older, it’s also a good idea to see your GP for regular check-ups, so you can monitor your blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, and receive support, advice, and tips to boost your health.

Having trouble quitting smoking? Try these quit tips.

“Although more common in older age groups, there is increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes in adolescents and children. It's important that children are encouraged to eat healthy foods, get plenty of physical activity and maintain a healthy weight. These simple steps can help avoid a whole host of health problems in the future," says Dr Swan.

Read more: Healthy recipes and inspiration

How to manage type 2 diabetes

Although there is no known cure for type 2 diabetes, it can be managed through diet, exercise and prescribed medications including tablets and insulin injections. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet, regular exercise, and not smoking and are key ways to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and manage its symptoms. For a fun, free and social way to stay active, why not try one of our Free + Active local events.

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