(Australian Associated Press)
After talented musician Jacinta Brett was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, her dreams of playing the guitar were thwarted by the constant need to prick her fingertips.
But thanks to advancements in treatments for those suffering the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, she is now strumming the guitar and ukulele with ease.
The 18-year-old is thankful she no longer relies on having to stick needles into her fingers every day to monitor her blood glucose levels.
Since she was six and with the help of her parents, Jacinta has been managing her symptoms to prevent her blood sugar dipping too low and causing hypoglycaemia.
Her father Steven recalls Jacinta’s early despair while adjusting to her new routine.
“A child diagnosed that young is forced to grow up very quickly. Within six months she was asking questions like I don’t want to do this anymore, what happens if I don’t do the needles,” he told AAP.
“We would explain the symptoms, talk about blood glucose, and that conversation was carried through until the point where we would have to say, if you don’t you might die.”
“It’s a tough conversation to have with a seven-year-old daughter.”
Now studying music at the University of Newcastle, Jacinta lives out of home with some help from her flatmates. When she’s feeling the effects of a crash it helps to have someone on hand to deliver a sugary lift.
“My roommate heard me fall in the shower once and he came running with a drink which he slid through the door,” Jacinta told AAP.
In light of World Diabetes Day on November 14, doctors are urging Australians to check-in with a medical professional to prevent what has become the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness.
And while the ageing population is at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, children and adolescents are also being diagnosed at a faster rate than before.
“A major risk factor is ageing but it’s also lifestyle. And one of the biggest impacts on this is our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. It’s something we need to address,” Gary Deed told AAP.
Dr Deed said one of the biggest problems in diagnosing diabetes is that symptoms can be subtle.
They include increased thirst, general fatigue, cuts that don’t heal properly, and recurring skin conditions or thrush.
Pregnant women developing gestational diabetes is also on the rise. Children who are born to a mother with diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing it themselves later in life.
Knowledge and public awareness surrounding diabetes has improved, but Jacinta previously battled with misguided attempts at keeping her healthy, like being sidelined at school carnivals or being banned from eating sweet food.
“It’s gotten better but a lot of people are still misinformed and make assumptions about type 1 and type 2 diabetes – they think they work the same way. The truth is they don’t,” Jacinta said.