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One Third Of People Admitted To Hospital Have 'Silent' Type 2 Diabetes

John Pahos considers himself a fit and healthy 58-year-old.

The Melbourne man walks on average 15,000 steps a day and monitors his diet, so he's been the same weight for 15 years.

But, John's life changed instantly when he was admitted to the hospital with a bowel problem in August last year. After some routine checks, he learned he'd been living with undetected type 2 diabetes.

“I didn’t have the slightest idea that I could have type 2 diabetes," John said.

"You think it can’t happen to you -- but it can."

Incredibly, John's story isn't that unusual. In fact, half a million Aussies live with the type 2 diabetes without knowing they've got it.

“An estimated 500,000 Australians are living with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, but it can be doing damage to their bodies and many will only be diagnosed late when a diabetes complication such as eye damage or heart trouble impacts their lives," Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said on Sunday.

One-Third Of Hospitalisations Associated With Diabetes

A recent study by Austin Health found people with diabetes account for 34 percent of all hospitalisations in Victoria's Austin Hospital. Incredibly, five percent of these are people living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes like John.

"That's not a surprise, unfortunately," Johnson said.

"That's common across most hospitals in Australia. People with diabetes are frequent flyers in our hospitals."

READ MORE: What You Need To Know About Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is often detected when a person is admitted to hospital. Photo: Getty Images.

In fact, type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney damage, heart attack and amputation in Australia. It's estimated a whopping one million people are admitted to hospital every year as a result of diabetes, which drains the health system of both human and financial resources.

"They [people with diabetes] are over-represented in our hospitals and they are over-represented because they are experiencing a whole range of complications," Johnson said.

Most Not Concerned About Developing Diabetes

A survey conducted by Diabetes Australia revealed some alarming statistics related to Australians' concern about developing type 2 diabetes.

Sixty-two percent of people aged 40 or above are not worried about developing type 2 diabetes, despite that fact that about two-thirds of the age group are at high risk.

Type 2 diabetes was also rated by respondents as having the least impact on a person's life compared to a range of other conditions including blindness and amputation -- of which diabetes is a leading cause.

"And yet, we don't connect the dots, the community doesn't connect the fact that diabetes is the underlying cause of so many serious complications," Johnson told media on Sunday.

READ MORE: Moving Forward After A Double Amputation

Diabetes
Photo: It's About Time.

National Diabetes Week, from 14-20 July, encourages people to be diligent about getting tested for type 2 diabetes. The ‘It’s About Time’ campaign reminds people that early detection can prevent long-term health issues and hospitalisations.

Austin Health has added an additional blood test to the range of tests patients already receive to increase diabetes detection levels.

Johnson welcomed this move, saying patients can receive more tailored treatment when the cause of their illness is known.

"We can prevent complications and this is about time but there is too much of a time delay, there is too much late diagnosis. We need to have early detection and early treatment " Johnson said.

Causes And Treatment Of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can be caused by a number of factors including high blood pressure, obesity, lack of physical activity and poor diet.

Obesity
People who are overweight or have the 'apple' body type are at higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Photo: Getty Images.

People may also have a genetic disposition to the disease, while others who have the classic 'apple shape' body, where weight is carried around the waist, could also be at greater risk.

Many people with type 2 diabetes display no symptoms and often by the time a person is diagnosed, complications associated with the disease are already prevalent.

Symptoms can include being excessively thirsty, always feeling hungry, blurred vision, feeling tired and lethargic, mood swings, dizziness and leg cramps.

While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, the condition can be managed through the modification of lifestyle factors and medication use.

Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can be managed with the modification of lifestyle factors and medication use. Photo: Getty Images.

The risk calculator on the Diabetes Australia website can help people determine their risk of developing the disease.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au