Ochre Health’s guide to identifying type 1 diabetes

Every year, more than 600 Australians end up in hospital emergency rooms very sick, before they find out that they have type 1 diabetes.[1]

Diabetes is a serious complex condition that can affect the entire body and requires daily self-care. When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. As a result, insulin – a hormone essential for the conversion of glucose into energy – is no longer produced (type 1) or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body (type 2).

Although type 1 accounts for 10 per cent of all cases of diabetes in Australia, it is one of the most common chronic diseases among children.[2] Of the 3186 Australians newly diagnosed in 2017, half of these were children.[3]

To avoid the increasing number of hospitalisations, particularly among children, Ochre Health explains the importance of early detection ahead of National Diabetes Week from 8-14 July 2018.

What is type 1 diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Symptoms are often life-threatening, leading to fast diagnosis. While it can occur at any age, it usually develops in children and adolescents.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known. As an autoimmune condition, it cannot be prevented, even if you are living a healthy lifestyle.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Unlike type 1 diabetes, which has a rapid onset, type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition – although it is no less serious. In type 2 diabetes, the body resists the normal effects of insulin and, in some cases, gradually loses the capacity to produce insulin. As a result, many people have no symptoms at all. While the causes are unknown, type 2 usually affects adults over the age of 40 years and is associated with both genetic and modifiable lifestyle risk factors, such as weight gain and family history.

What are the 4T’s of type 1 diabetes?

This year, Ochre Health are encouraging the community, families, schools and health professionals to recognise the early warning signs – the 4 T’s of Type 1 diabetes.[4] These are:

  • Thirst – are you really thirsty and unable to quench that thirst?
  • Toilet – are you going to the toilet regularly?
  • Tired – are you feeling more tired than usual?
  • Thinner – have you recently lost weight?

What do I do if I think I have symptoms?

If you haven’t done so already, talk to your regular GP. If your doctor thinks that you may have diabetes, you will need to have a blood test. They can also test your urine for high levels of blood acids, known as ketones. Without an ongoing supply of insulin, the body switches to burning fat instead of glucose for energy, producing ketones.

What happens if people with type 1 diabetes don’t receive insulin?

Failure to recognise the early symptoms of type 1 diabetes can lead to a potentially life-threatening complication called diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA). In the lead-up to a DKA episode, a person may experience fast breathing, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, severe dehydration and unexplained weight loss. This is a severe complication that requires emergency services immediately.

Living with type 1 diabetes: is there a cure?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes and people living with the condition require insulin replacements every day of their lives.

While living with diabetes can be overwhelming, especially for children, you can successfully manage type 1 diabetes by:

  • Learning to control and monitor blood glucose levels regularly (up to 6 times every day as directed by a doctor)
  • Staying physically active
  • Following a diabetic diet, including getting advice from a dietician with an interest in diabetes
  • Maintaining regular health checks with your doctor, including blood pressure and kidney function
  • Having a sick-day action plan.

Don’t miss the early warning signs. Book an appointment with your GP for a diabetes check today.



[1] Diabetes Australia. See https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/campaign.

[2] Diabetes Australia. See: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/what-is-diabetes.

[3] Diabetes Australia, National Diabetes Services Scheme 2017, Type 1 Diabetes Statistical Snapshot at 31 March 2017, https://static.diabetesaustralia.com.au/s/fileassets/diabetes-australia/a6bc2b76-18f8-482d-98a4-b41b20cfdb11.pdf.

[4] Diabetes Australia’s 2018 campaign for National Diabetes Week, is: “‘It’s About Time’ we knew the early signs of type 1 diabetes.” See further: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/campaign.

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