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Diabetes | Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) | Te Whatu Ora

Public Service, Endocrinology


Formerly Northland DHB Diabetes

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
Diabetes is a condition that affects the way your body deals with sugar.  The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by insulin which is a hormone produced by the pancreas (an organ that lies near your stomach).

Patients with diabetes have too much sugar in their blood. Lowering the blood sugar is important for the prevention of serious complications.
Some indications that you may have diabetes include:  
  • change in your weight
  • feeling thirsty
  • excessive passing of urine
  • blurred vision
  • slow healing of sores
  • tingling in hands and feet.
If you experience any of these symptoms please see your doctor. In most people there are hardly any symptoms early in the disease.  There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2.  Type 2 is the most common and you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are overweight or have a family history of diabetes.  There is also diabetes that develops in pregnancy: gestational diabetes.
There are two types of tests in diabetes: to diagnose if you have the condition and to monitor your treatment and manage the disease to prevent complications.
Diagnosis testing
Glycosylated haemoglobin test (HbA1c) is a laboratory blood test to screen diabetes. If positive, it is often repeated to confirm the diagnosis.

In pregnancy, and occasionally in other situations, you will have an oral glucose tolerance test that involves a fasting blood glucose (on an empty stomach in the morning, followed by a very sweet drink and 2 hours later have another blood test).

Monitoring testing
Finger prick test.  A very quick test where your finger is pricked, a drop of blood is collected on a strip and examined by a small hand-held machine. It takes 10 seconds.  Depending on the type of diabetes you have, you may have one of these machines at home and do your own test a few times a week or day.
HbA1c is also used for monitoring. This is a test that is used to keep track of how your diabetes has being managed over the last 2 to 3 months. You might have 2 to 4 of these tests a year arranged by your doctor or diabetes nurse.
Other tests
Because diabetes can affect many other organs you will, over time, have other blood and urine tests as well as tests for your heart and eyes.
Diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, exercise and medications. You will also be referred to retinal screening, to monitor your eyes.  You may also be referred to the following:
  • dietitian, to advise you on healthy eating
  • podiatrist, for foot care
  • dentist, to ensure your gums and teeth are well maintained
  • nurse, to help with day-to-day management of your diabetes
  • ophthalmologist, to monitor your eyes.
The amount of sugar in the blood varies throughout the day but normally remains within a narrow range fasting and before meals (usually 4 – 6 mmol/L).  Even with medication it tends to be slightly higher in people with diabetes but you will learn what level is your best target.
You will receive lots of information about what you can do to manage your diabetes when you attend your general practitioner and if meeting referral criteria, the Northland DHB diabetes service.

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This page was last updated at 1:21PM on June 29, 2023. This information is reviewed and edited by Diabetes | Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) | Te Whatu Ora.