November is Diabetes Action Month

Diabetes Action Month aims to bring New Zealanders together to take action for our country’s largest and fastest growing condition. This year’s theme is Eyes on Diabetes – looking at why it is important to look after your eyes when you have diabetes.

Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Aotearoa, and everyone living with diabetes is at risk of losing their vision.

Vision loss can be very difficult to accept, and it can have a huge impact on the quality of life for those living with diabetes. Much of the day-to-day management of diabetes relies on your eyesight, such as administering insulin, monitoring glucose meds or checking for feet or skin issues.

How eye health can decline with diabetes

Any loss of sight can indicate the progression of diabetes, and other complications from that become more likely. Eye conditions often experienced by those with diabetes include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.

A common sign of diabetes starting to impact your eye health is when high blood glucose levels cause your vision to blur temporarily. Blurred vision can occur prior to a diabetes diagnosis, when starting a new treatment, or when blood glucose levels fluctuate quickly.

Other recognisable symptoms of eye conditions include:

  • seeing double;
  • feeling pressure in one or both of the eyes;
  • less peripheral vision;
  • seeing floating spots or flashes;
  • sensitivity to light; and
  • poor night vision.

How to prevent damage to your eyes if you have diabetes

The crucial step to prevent eye damage is to have a regular diabetes eye check at least every two years, or as directed by your doctor or eye specialist.

It is also important to maintain healthy blood glucose levels, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure as part of your ongoing management of your diabetes. Working toward quitting smoking is also recommended. Lastly, stay vigilant and report any rapid changes in your sight to your doctor or eye specialist immediately.

Eyes on Diabetes: Nga karu me te matekura, Diabetes Action Month - November 2023.

How to support Diabetes NZ

There are so many ways to support New Zealanders living with diabetes and their whānau during Diabetes Action Month, including:

Diagram showing the movement of insulin from the pancreas into the bloodstream to breakdown glucose for use by body cells.

Find out more about diabetes

More than 257,000 New Zealanders now live with diabetes. Also a significant number of people in New Zealand now have pre-diabetes. Every day 50 more people are diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is diagnosed when a person has too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. This happens because the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range.

Diabetes cannot presently be cured but it can be controlled and you can lead a full and active life.

You could be at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are European descent aged 40 years or older.
  • Have diabetes in your family (grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters).
  • Are Maori, Asian, Middle Eastern or Pacific Island descent aged 30 years or older.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Are overweight – especially if you carry most of your weight around your waist.
  • Are diagnosed as having pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. This occurs when the glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes.
  • Gave birth to a large baby weighing more than 4kg (9lbs).
  • Had high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) or diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Have had high blood glucose in the past.

Take an online test to find out if you are at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately up to 70 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. 70 percent of premature deaths among adults are largely due to behaviour initiated when they were teenagers.

There are some changes you can make to try and avoid type 2 diabetes developing, including:

  • Stay physically active and get regular exercise – aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Remember you don’t have to do all of your daily exercise at once.
  • Eat healthy food.
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range.

Get more information about type 2 diabetes (HealthInfo Canterbury).

Source: Diabetes New Zealand website.

Published on Tuesday, October 17th, 2023, under Events
Page last updated: 16/10/2023

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