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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 group of conditions 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. 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 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the pancreas, causing it to gradually decrease its insulin production. It can occur at all ages, but most commonly presents in children and young adults. Type 1 diabetes is managed through regular insulin injections. 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is more likely to develop in those who are overweight or have a family history of diabetes. Here, the pancreas still produces insulin but at a diminished rate that decreases further over time. The body is also resistant to insulin. Management of type 2 diabetes typically involves lifestyle changes (weight, dietary, exercise) and tablets. Most people will eventually require insulin injections despite following dietary and exercise recommendations. 

There is also diabetes that develops in pregnancy: Gestational Diabetes.

It is important to lower or ‘control’ blood sugar levels to prevent serious health complications. These could include:

  • Eye problems, known as retinopathy. Regular retinal screening is important to monitor your eyes. 
  • Kidney damage
  • Foot issues, such as ulcers and painful feet
  • Having heart attacks or strokes earlier than usual

There are effective treatments for many of these complications if they are discovered early. 

Referral Expectations

You can be referred to this service by your GP if you meet the referral criteria. Referrals are prioritised based on condition and severity. You may receive either a one-off appointment or have regular appointments depending on your needs. 

Please bring to your appointments:

  • All your medication (or a full list of what you are taking, including dosages)
  • Records of your blood sugar levels (if you test these at home)
  • If you receive a laboratory form, please have your blood test done at least five days before your appointment so that your results will be available. 

Services available/Who might I see?

  • Diabetes Specialist - not everyone referred gets seen by a specialist, but they are available for advice as needed 
  • Diabetes Nurse Specialist - provides education, advice, and resources around diabetes management, including adjusting your medication doses if required 
  • Diabetes dietitian - provides advice on food and nutrition to help manage your diabetes 
  • Podiatrist - provides assessment and treatment of any foot ulcers, wounds or infections 
  • Ophthalmologist - anyone with eye problems identified during retinal screening may be referred to the ophthalmologist. 

Contact Details

This page was last updated at 3:15PM on March 6, 2024. This information is reviewed and edited by Diabetes | Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) | Te Whatu Ora.