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in General
Guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes
An electronic version of these guidelines is available at
Any changes after the printing of this edition and before the next will be available
on this website.
This booklet is intended to provide information about the management of
type 2 diabetes in Australian general practice. However, type 1 diabetes is
mentioned in several sections. General practitioners seeking information about
the management of type 1 diabetes should consult other sources. This booklet
is not intended to replace professional judgement, experience and appropriate
referral. While every care has been taken to ensure accuracy, reference to product
information is recommended before prescribing. Diabetes Australia assumes no
responsibility for personal or other injury, loss or damage that may result from the
information in this publication.
ISBN: 978 1875690 190
August 2012
Photocopying this publication in its original form is permitted for educational
purposes only. Reproduction in any other form without the written permission
of Diabetes Australia is prohibited.
© Copyright Diabetes Australia Limited 2012
Goals for
The chart on the flip side lists goals for optimum
diabetes management that all people with diabetes
should be encouraged to reach.
This chart has been specifically designed as a card for
you to pull out and place on your desk or nearby for
easy reference.
Goals for optimum
diabetes management
Encourage all people with diabetes to reach these goals
n BGL Ideal 4.0–6.0 mmol/L (fasting)
NHMRC 6.1–8.0 mmol/L (fasting)
n HbA1c
n Total cholesterol
<4.0 mmol/L*
>1.0 mmol/L*
<2.0 mmol/L*
n Non-HDL-C
<2.5 mmol/L*
n Triglycerides
<2.0 mmol/L*
n Blood pressure
≤130/80 mm Hg
18-24.9 kg/m2 where appropriate
n Urinary albumin excretion<20 μg/min (timed overnight collection)
<20 mg/L (spot collection)
<3.5 mg/mmol: women
<2.5 mg/mmol: men (albumin creatinine ratio)
n Cigarette consumption
n Alcohol intake
≤2 standard drinks (20 g) per day for
men and women
n Physical activityAt least 30 minutes walking (or equivalent)
5 or more days/week
(Total ≥150 minutes/week)
Doctors should consider:
n Immunisation against influenza and pneumococcal disease
* National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance
Eighteenth edition 2012/13
Editorial Panel
Gratitude is expressed to everybody who has contributed to these guidelines: The
Health Care and Education Committee of Diabetes Australia, The Australian Diabetes
Educators Association, Australian Diabetes Society, Dietitians Association of Australia,
The Australian Podiatry Council, many general practitioners, endocrinologists, dietitians,
diabetes educators and podiatrists.
Dr Peter Harris
Senior Lecturer
School of Public Health and Community Medicine,
University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW
Dr Linda Mann
General Practitioner
Leichhardt, Sydney NSW; Medical Educator, GP Synergy
Dr Pat Phillips
Consultant Endocrinologist
Adelaide SA
Carole Webster
National Publications Manager
State and Territory Diabetes Organisations
Appreciation is expressed to Dr Michael d'Emden, Chair of the Health Care and
Education Committee of Diabetes Australia which has reviewed and endorsed this
publication. Appreciation is also expressed to Dr Chris Holmwood who prepared the
original guidelines and to the RACGP National Standing Committee – Quality Care
which reviewed previous editions.
The Editors have considered and included relevant information within guidelines
and evidence recognised by the medical profession, including the NHMRC and the
Australian Diabetes Society. This document is designed for first line primary care.
More complex care is best addressed by a team.
In the past, feedback from readers has been helpful in making improvements for
future editions. We welcome your feedback relating to this 2012/2013 edition
(email [email protected])
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Editorial Panel
Update on what is new, changed or controversial
1.1Who needs to be tested for undiagnosed diabetes?
1.2 What type of diabetes?
2 Assessment
2.1 2.2 2.3 15
Initial assessment
Plan of continuing care
3 The team approach
Members of the team
3.2Counselling the person with diabetes
4Initial management
Physical activity28
5 Health care for diabetes
Medical monitoring
5.2.1 Quarterly review Quarterly nursing review
5.2.2 Annual review Annual nursing review
Systems for care
5.3.1 How Medicare supports the process
5.3.2 Required annual cycle of care
5.3.3 General Practice Management Plans (GPMP)
5.3.4 Team Care Arrangements (TCA)
6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Hypoglycaemic agents
Insulin treatment
Insulin delivery
Insulins available
Problems with medication
New technology
Surgical procedures
7Sick days
8 Hyperglycaemic emergencies
8.1 8.2 Diabetic ketoacidosis
Hyperosmolar non-ketotic coma
9 Factors complicating management
9.1 Macrovascular disease
9.2 Hypertension
9.3 Dyslipidaemia
9.4 Renal damage
9.5 Eye damage
9.6 Foot problems
9.7 Neuropathy
9.8 Problems with medications
9.9 Complementary medicines
10 Diabetes and reproductive health
10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 Pregnancy
Gestational diabetes
Hormone replacement therapy
Sexual problems
13 Diabetes Australia
14 National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS)
Further resources
Internet resourcesInside back page
Goals for managementBack page
Diabetes Management in General Practice
General practitioners continue to provide most of the medical care to people
with type 2 diabetes. The complexity of care for this common disease requires
systematic care from the practice team and the timely referral to community and
hospital based specialists.
The current guide, in its eighteenth edition, plays an important role in providing a
readable summary of current guidelines and recommendations from various sources
on the management of type 2 diabetes in adults in the general practice setting.
Importantly, this edition again includes specific issues relating to treating diabetes
in the Indigenous population which reflect the burden of this disease within this
group. Also included is a routine care checklist for practice nurses for use under the
clinical oversight of the general practitioner.
Patricia McKenzie
Independent President
Diabetes Australia
Foreword 5
Update on what is new,
changed or controversial
Since the 2011/12 edition was printed the following guidelines have become
• NHMRC Guidelines on Primary and Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular
Disease in People with Type 2 Diabetes www.nhmrc.gov.au
• American Diabetes Association/European Association for the Study of
Diabetes ‘Management of Hyperglycaemia in Type 2 Diabetes: A patientcentred approach’ Diabetes Care 35:1201-1203, 2012.
Diagnosis: The American Diabetes Association recommends HbA1c as well as
venous plasma glucose levels to diagnose type 2 diabetes with diagnostic values
being ≥6.5%. This policy may be adopted in Australia in future.
Reporting: Internationally there is a move towards a standard based on the
chemistry of HbA1c which would result in reported values being considerably
different: mmol of HbA1c per mol of haemoglobin rather than %. Conversion
from the old to the new units is as follows:
HbA1c (mmol/mol) = 20 + 11(A1c% - 4).
Alternatively: at an HbA1c of 6% the A1c in mmol/mol is 42. For each 1%
above 6% the A1c in mmol/mol increases by 11. The change in units is expected
in 2012/13 and when it occurs both the old and new values will be reported
Aspirin and protection from cardiovascular disease
The controversy continues about the use of aspirin in reducing cardiovascular
events in those with type 2 diabetes but without evidence of cardiovascular disease.
Until results of the International Prospective Randomised Controlled Trial are
available, NPS notes long-term low dose aspirin should be used in people with
diabetes who have a history of cardiovascular disease. The evidence for low dose
aspirin in people with diabetes but no history of cardiovascular disease is weak. Low
dose aspirin for primary prevention in people with diabetes may be considered if the
overall cardiovascular benefits outweigh the risk of bleeding.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Fatty liver
Some notes have been added to the Nutrition section on the prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and
the risk of cirrhosis in type 2 diabetes (refer page 28).
Targets for glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes
(Section 4, page 23) Pre prandial targets are now:
• Normoglycaemia 4.0–6.0 mmol/L
• NHMRC values 6.1–8.0 mmol/L
reflecting the need to individualise glycaemic targets. Reference is made to the
Australian Diabetes Society Position Statement which offers guidelines for targets
in patients in various clinical situations.
Targets for blood pressure and lipids
The National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance has changed the recommended
target values for blood pressure and lipids:
Blood pressure
≤130/80 mm Hg for people with diabetes
LipidsLDL-C <2.0 mmol/L
<2.5 mmol/L
Triglycerides <2.0 mmol/L
Total cholesterol and HDL-C remain the same (refer outside back cover)
Driving guidelines
Medical standards for licensing and clinical management guidelines in assessing
fitness to drive for commercial and private vehicle drivers were updated in March
2012 and can be found at www.austroads.com.au/assessing-fitness-to-drive/
Fatty liver 7
Update on what is new, changed or controversial
This booklet is a guide to type 2 diabetes in adults.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition which can result in disability and early death.
Management of the person with diabetes requires the skills of several professionals
(general practitioner, specialist physician, diabetes educator, podiatrist, dietitian,
ophthalmologist or optometrist, exercise professional and dentist) and the active
participation of the patient.
The aim of this booklet is to provide guidelines for management of type 2 diabetes.
We hope that general practitioners will consult these guidelines in order to ensure
a high standard of care for their patients.
he underlying aim is improvement in the duration and quality of
life of patients.
ncourage patients to participate and take an active role in the
management of their diabetes.
nsure that all other preventive health care activities are included,
while maintaining good diabetes health care.
Any guideline should be flexible: management takes into consideration the patient’s
age, educational level, cultural background, the current scientific knowledge, the
availability of resources and the range of particular preferences of the patient and
professionals involved.
The overall goals in degree of control and lifestyle modification must be realistic.
The general practitioner can have an important positive effect on patient lifestyle.
Education of a partner or other responsible carers is an important factor
in maintaining positive lifestyle changes in a patient. Similarly the general
practitioner can ensure that management is individualised to the person’s cultural,
educational and financial status.
The general practitioner is a key member of the therapeutic team. In many instances
the general practitioner is the principal medical professional in the vast majority of
patients. In other instances there may be a ‘shared-care’ arrangement between specialist
and general practitioner, while in others, management of diabetes by the specialist
may be preferable. In all situations the paramount consideration is the patient’s
well being.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Specific issues relating to the treatment of diabetes in the Indigenous
population will be highlighted in boxes throughout the guidelines. A
conservative approach has been taken on the statements included to ensure that
practitioners can have confidence they are based on solid evidence.
For the team approach to be successful there should be good communication
between members based on trust and respect. For example, the patient will often
relate best to the general practitioner. The other team members should be able
to support that relationship and channel their input to management accordingly.
The role of the general practitioner ideally involves initial diagnosis, treatment,
coordination of consultant and allied professional care and continuing management
(including education and counselling of the patient and carers).
• T
he importance of the patient-doctor partnership in the management
of diabetes cannot be overstated. The patient and the general practitioner
need to have an agreed understanding of the patient’s diabetes and associated
problems and agree on the management strategies being adopted.
• I n order to provide optimum care, the general practitioner must have adequate
records and systems in place which will assist in the recall of patients for further
investigations or continuing management. Adequate records are also necessary
in order to monitor outcomes – both for the individual and within the wider
community. A diabetes register at every practice is encouraged.
• E
nsure that all other preventive health care activities are included, while
maintaining good diabetes health care.
Carers need to become involved in education and management decisions. This
is particularly so in young people with diabetes, disabled patients and where
major dietary changes are required. Every carer needs to be well informed on
recognition and treatment of hypoglycaemia, if the patient is treated with insulin or
guidelines 9
1 Diagnosis
People in high risk groups need to be screened for undiagnosed type 2
diabetes. See following page for high risk categories.
A three-step screening and diagnosis procedure is recommended for detecting
undiagnosed type 2 diabetes:
1. Initial risk assessment using a risk assessment tool or risk factors
2. Measurement of fasting plasma glucose
3. Sometimes an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).
Diagnosis must be confirmed on a subsequent day unless unequivocal hyperglycaemia
with acute metabolic decompensation or obvious symptoms are present.
The OGTT is unnecessary to diagnose diabetes in people with an unequivocally
elevated fasting or random plasma glucose. An OGTT needs to be performed in a
person with an equivocal result. (See Fig. 1).
The test is carried out after an overnight fast, following three days of adequate
carbohydrate intake (greater than 150 g per day). A 75 g load of oral glucose is
given and the diagnosis of diabetes can be made if venous plasma glucose level
fasting is ≥7.0 mmol/L or 2-hour post glucose load is ≥11.1 mmol/L.
Capillary blood glucose measurement using a desktop meter may be used for
testing for undiagnosed diabetes as long as it is confirmed by venous plasma
measurement. Urine testing is not sufficiently sensitive or specific as a screening
test for undiagnosed diabetes.
Fig. 1: Glucose levels – venous plasma: mmol/L
F or R: <5.5
F: 5.5–6.9
R: 5.5–11.0
F: >7.0
R: >11.1
Diabetes unlikely
Diabetes uncertain
Diabetes likely
Re-test yearly if
high risk
Oral glucose tolerance test
3 yearly if
increased risk
2-hour glucose levels
Diabetes unlikely
Impaired glucose tolerance
Diabetes likely
F = Fasting
R = Random
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Who needs to be tested for undiagnosed diabetes?
Asymptomatic people at high risk of undiagnosed diabetes should be identified.
One population-based tool is the AUSDRISK tool (www.health.gov.au) which is
recommended for use every 3 years in all adults over the age of 40 as a screening
tool to identify those at increased risk of having undiagnosed type 2 diabetes or of
developing the disease in the next 5 years. To help prevent diabetes, some Medicare
Locals offer programs to patients with high scores.
High risk individuals should be screened by measurement of plasma glucose. This
needs to be performed in a laboratory (rather than using a blood glucose meter).
In addition to those identified by the AUSDRISK tool, people at high risk for
undiagnosed type 2 diabetes are:
• People with impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glucose (see below).
• Indigenous people aged 35 and over.
• Certain high risk non-English speaking people aged 35 and over
(specifically Pacific Islanders, people from the Indian subcontinent, people of
Chinese origin).
• People aged 40 and over who have one or more of the following risk factors:
– Obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2) – Hypertension
• All people with clinical cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction,
angina, stroke or peripheral vascular disease).
• Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome who are obese.
• People on antipsychotic drugs.
The following groups are also at high risk but further studies are required to
evaluate net clinical or economic benefit:
• Women with a history of gestational diabetes.
• People aged 55 and over.
• People aged 45 and over, with a first degree relative with type 2 diabetes.
Certain medications (especially glucocorticoids and atypical antipsychotics) can
affect glucose metabolism and increase the risk of diabetes.
Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)
At-risk patients include those who:
• are over 40 years
• are overweight (particularly those with central adiposity), or
• have high blood pressure, known cardiovascular disease, a family history of
diabetes or past history of gestational diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) cannot be excluded in a patient
Diagnosis 11
with a random glucose of >5.5 mmol/L and <11.1 mmol/L. In such patients an
OGTT should be performed to establish a diagnosis.
Fasting plasma glucose level ≥6.1 mmol/L but <7.0 mmol/L (impaired fasting
glucose [IFG]), or 2-hour glucose level following a 75 g glucose load ≥7.8 mmol/L
but <11.1 mmol/L (impaired glucose tolerance [IGT]). Over 16% of the Australian
population over the age of 25 years have either IGT or IFG.
Significance of IFG and IGT
Although originally considered to be 'pre-diabetes', indicating risk of future
diabetes, there is now evidence of a continuum of cardiovascular risk associated with
dysglycaemia and early insulin resistance through IFG/IGT to the diabetic state.
A close association between impaired glucose control not reaching the threshold
for diagnosis of diabetes and the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD)
has been described. CVD risk is distributed across a continuum of post-challenge
glucose levels, making it likely that any degree of post-challenge hyperglycaemia is
associated with the development of premature CVD.
Management of IFG and IGT
Patients with IFG/IGT must be counselled that they are at increased risk of CVD,
and strict control of all cardiovascular risk factors (blood pressure, lipids, smoking)
should be a priority. Dietary and exercise advice should be given and aspirin therapy
should be considered.
Patients should be counselled about the increased risk of progression to diabetes,
and advised of the results of recent diabetes prevention studies that have shown
that lifestyle change (diet together with at least 150 minutes of exercise per week
to achieve a weight loss of 7%) can delay or prevent progression to type 2 diabetes.
Increased physical activity is particularly important in maintaining weight loss.
Regular physical activity, including resistance activities, also improves insulin
sensitivity; reduces plasma levels of insulin in people with hyperinsulinaemia;
improves dyslipidaemia and lowers blood pressure. Moreover, physical activity
increases metabolically active muscle tissue, improves general cardiovascular health
and also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Whilst use of metformin and glitazones have been trialled as pharmacological
approaches to diabetes prevention in this group with some success, lifestyle
modification is more effective. Drug therapy is not approved for the treatment of
impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose.
Periodic testing for undiagnosed diabetes is recommended in high risk individuals.
All high risk people with a negative screening test are at risk of cardiovascular
disease and the future development of type 2 diabetes, and need to be given
appropriate advice on SNAP risk factor reduction (Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol
and Physical activity).
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Pregnant women need to be screened for gestational diabetes (see section 10.2 on
page 75).
Routine testing of low risk asymptomatic people is not recommended.
The Indigenous population has a higher risk of developing diabetes and
is 10.5 to 13 times more likely to die from diabetes, compared with nonIndigenous Australians.
The prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes in the Indigenous population
exceeds 5% in all those over 35 years of age. In some regions the prevalence
approaches 5% at a much younger age (as young as 18 years). The prevalence
of diabetes risk factors including impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) exceeds
5% in this population aged under 35 years of age.
The incidence of diabetes in the Indigenous population is 10 times higher than
the general population and reaches 2% per year in some regions (eg: Central
What type of diabetes?
Differentiation is based on age, rate of clinical onset, body weight,
family history and urinary ketones.
Once a diagnosis is made it is important to determine the type of diabetes. Usually
there is clear clinical evidence and differentiation is easy.
Type 1
Type 2
– Middle-aged (generally) – Slow onset
– Young (generally) – Rapid onset
– Ketosis prone
– Insulin deficient – Not prone to ketosis – Insulin resistant
– Recent weight loss
– Overweight
– Strong family history
At present there are no practical or specific markers for either group. While type
1 diabetes occurs in the young it is by no means confined to that group. Similarly
while many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, some are normal weight. In
fact, most overweight people do not develop diabetes.
Remember that someone treated with insulin does not necessarily have type 1
diabetes. In fact, if insulin is started several years after diagnosis, it is likely that the
person has type 2 diabetes.
Diagnosis 13
Type 1 diabetes
This type of diabetes was previously known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus
(IDDM) or Juvenile Onset Diabetes. All patients should be suspected as type 1 until
you can convince yourself otherwise. A simple urine dipstick can be used. If ketones
are present, type 1 diabetes is highly likely. All children who are symptomatic should
have a urine test or finger prick. If positive for glucose, urgent referral to hospital is
needed (formal pathology is not required).
Late-onset Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults
There is a form of late onset diabetes that is autoimmune and requires treatment
with insulin within a relatively short period after diagnosis (often in the next
2 years). This is known as Late-onset Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA).
These people tend to be young (30–40 years) and have a personal and/or
family history of other autoimmune diseases (eg: hypo or hyperthyroidism).
Testing for glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibodies can confirm the
diagnosis and can prompt counselling the person about the likely time course
of diabetes progression and the possibility of other autoimmune disease.
Type 2 diabetes
This type of diabetes was previously known as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes
Mellitus (NIDDM) or Maturity Onset Diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes can
occur in children and adolescents if they are overweight or obese, have a family
history of type 2 diabetes and/or come from a high risk group. Most people with
newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes have few or no symptoms.
Gestational diabetes
This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is discussed on page 75.
Medication induced diabetes
Some medications, for example prednisolone and olanzapine, can produce
hyperglycaemia which can be associated with abnormal OGTT and the diagnosis
of diabetes. This may require hypoglycaemic medication. Such patients require the
usual diabetes assessment and management. When the medication is ceased, the
requirement for hypoglycaemic treatment may change, but patients should still be
considered to have diabetes and require ongoing cardiovascular monitoring. They
are also at risk of developing frank diabetes again.
Other forms of diabetes
These are uncommon but include cystic fibrosis, other causes of pancreatic injury
and endocrinopathies.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
2 Assessment
Initial assessment
Assessment includes appraisal of cardiovascular risks and
end-organ damage.
A detailed assessment needs to be made at first diagnosis.
Specific symptoms:
Predisposition to diabetes:
– Age
– Polyuria
– Family history
– Polydipsia
– Cultural group
– Polyphagia
– Overweight
– Weight loss
– Physical inactivity
– Nocturia
– Hypertension
– Obstetric history of large babies
or gestational diabetes
–Medication causing hyperglycaemia
–Personal or family history of haemochromatosis
– Malaise/fatigue
– Altered vision
– Autoimmune disease (personal and/or family history of other autoimmune diseases (eg: hypo or hyperthyroidism))
Risk factors for complications
General symptom review
– Personal or family history of – Cardiovascular symptoms
cardiovascular disease
– Neurological symptoms
– Smoking
– Bladder and sexual function
– Hypertension
– Foot and toe problems
– Dyslipidaemia
– Recurrent infections
(especially urinary and skin)
Lifestyle issues:
– Smoking
– Nutrition
– Alcohol
– Physical activity
– Occupation
Assessment 15
Weight/waist:– Body Mass Index (BMI) = weight (kg) divided by
height2 (m2)
– Waist circumference (see page 24)
Cardiovascular system:
– Blood pressure, ideally lying and standing
– Peripheral, neck and abdominal vessels
– Visual acuity (with correction)
– Cataracts
– Retinopathy (examine with pupil dilation)
– Sensation and circulation
– Skin condition
– Pressure areas
– Interdigital problems
– Abnormal bone architecture
Peripheral nerves:
– Tendon reflexes
– Sensation: touch (eg: with 10 g monofilament)
vibration (eg: with 128 hz tuning fork)
– Albumin
– Ketones
– Nitrites and/or leucocytes
– Renal function: plasma creatinine (eGFR),
– Lipids: LDL-C, HDL-C, total cholesterol, triglyceride
– Glycaemia: glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c)
– ECG, if >50 years old and at least one other vascular
risk factor
– Microurine if high risk group (woman, neuropathy,
vaginal pessary)
– Thyroid function tests if there is a family history or
clinical suspicion
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Plan of continuing care
Relieve acute symptoms.
ptimise control of glycaemia and other risk factors for
Treat existing complications.
Maintain other preventive activities.
Priorities of management
Patient and carer counselling includes identifying and addressing concerns which
may be causing distress and adversely affecting management.
If the patient is symptomatic then treatment of hyperglycaemia needs to be prompt
but if the patient is asymptomatic initial treatment can be more relaxed. The long
term medical goal is the prevention of complications.
Control of blood pressure and dyslipidaemia are important as well as glycaemic
control in preventing complications.
The overall aim of management is to improve quality of life and prevent
premature death:
Short term:
• Relief of symptoms and acute complications
Long term:
• Achievement of appropriate glycaemia
• Reduction of concurrent risk factors
• Identification and treatment of chronic complications
• Maintain other preventive activities (eg: immunisation)
ll patients should be advised of the risks of smoking and offered
assistance with smoking cessation.
ssess cardiovascular risk and consider low dose aspirin for
cardiovascular protection in high risk patients.
Assessment 17
Patients with type 1 diabetes need specialist assessment.
ll people with type 2 diabetes need to see an ophthalmologist or
optometrist initially and then at least every two years.
Diabetes educator:
Initially and then as patient becomes more familiar with management,
as considered necessary by patient, doctor or diabetes educator.
Ideally initially, then as considered necessary by patient, doctor or dietitian.
• Children, adolescents and adults with type 1 diabetes if the general practitioner
is not confident with management.
•Pregnant women with established diabetes and women with gestational diabetes
(see page 75 for screening recommendations).
People with diabetes and uncontrolled hyperglycaemia or with
significant complications.
Ophthalmologist or optometrist:
• Fundal examination (dilated pupils).
• The presence of cataracts needs to be checked.
• Assessment:
– prepubertal children: referral at puberty
– adults: referral at time of initial diagnosis
– thereafter at least every two years.
Ideally initially, and then regularly if there is/are peripheral vascular disease, neuropathy,
skin and/or nail problems and if there is difficulty in cutting toenails. Consider referral
to a high risk foot clinic if ulceration or intractable foot pain is present.
While Indigenous Australians are at high risk of many diseases and
premature death, they are less likely to receive many aspects of preventive
care. Identification of patients of Indigenous background is critical for
appropriately targeting interventions. GPs are encouraged to routinely ask all
patients if they have an Indigenous background so that they may target this
risk group effectively.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
3 The team approach
onsider referral to a diabetes educator or dietitian for
consolidation of education.
podiatrist’s help needs to be sought if neuropathy, peripheral
vascular disease, foot abnormality or calluses are present.
ebates for attendance at private dentists and exercise
professionals are available for patients under the Enhanced
Primary Care Program, as part of a Team Care Arrangement.
edicare subsidies are available for group education sessions
involving diabetes educators, dietitians and exercise physiologists.
In the team management of diabetes the patient is the central member.
For patients to be actively involved in their care they must understand the
condition, its effect on health and the practicalities of management. Good
communication between team members is important so that advice is consistent
and not confusing for the patient.
Members of the team
The following professionals are important in the team approach to diabetes:
Diabetes educator
The diabetes educator, within their scope of practice, can often spend more time than
the general practitioner has available, consolidating the patient’s knowledge and skills
regarding eating plan, physical activity, self-monitoring, medication usage, initiation
and support with insulin therapy, foot care etc. The Australian Diabetes Educators
Association (ADEA) has established a credentialling program. Qualified professionals
are "ADEA Credentialled Diabetes Educators". If available, the services of a diabetes
educator are useful in the early stages and a continuing liaison can be established.
The role of the dietitian in the management of diabetes is paramount. Lifestyle changes
alone (healthy food and regular exercise with ensuing weight loss) are sufficient for
glycaemic control in the majority of patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
Recommendations should be individualised to maximise cooperation. Early referral
to a dietitian is desirable to ensure detailed education on this most important aspect
of management. If the general practitioner and practice nurse understand the
principles of dietary advice, the dietary recommendations can be reinforced within the
general practice.
The team approach 19
The advice of a specialist physician may be valuable for people with complicated
problems related to diabetes – especially children, adolescents and adults with
type 1 diabetes or diabetes in pregnancy. A shared care approach by general
practitioner and specialist will provide the best combination of specialised expertise
and continuity of care. In many cases the specialist will be part of an organised,
multi-disciplinary diabetes care team which can provide a comprehensive diabetes
education program.
Exercise professional
When initiating a physical activity program in a patient who has been relatively
inactive, the help of a physiotherapist with a special interest in exercise routines or an
exercise physiologist may be of benefit. Rebates for attendance at exercise physiologists
are available for patients under the Enhanced Primary Care Program, as part of a
Team Care Arrangement (see pages 34 to 37).
General practitioner
The general practitioner has the central role in coordinating management of the person
with diabetes and in education, counselling and softening the “technology/person
interface” often felt by people with a chronic condition. The general practitioner is
the point of first contact and usually assumes responsibility for overall management.
Practice nurse
In many practices, the practice nurse is invaluable in establishing, managing and
implementing systems for diabetes care.
All people with diabetes need to be assessed regularly by an ophthalmologist
or optometrist. Optometrists may be more available than ophthalmologists in some
areas and most bulk bill for their services. Early detection of retinopathy, before
visual loss occurs, markedly improves prognosis for sight. Any deterioration in
vision requires immediate referral back to the ophthalmologist.
Oral health professional
Dental and periodontal problems are common in people with diabetes who need
to see a dentist regularly (eg: yearly). Rebates for attendance at private dentists are
available for patients under the Enhanced Primary Care Program, as part of a Team
Care Arrangement (see pages 34 to 37).
Pharmacists are frequently consulted by members of the community about a wide
range of health issues. Pharmacists usually know the health problems and prescribed
Diabetes Management in General Practice
medications and can provide useful advice on medication usage and potential
problems. A formal Home Medicines Review (HMR) can be arranged by general
practitioners (see page 35).
The podiatrist renders expert preventive care. If there is evidence of neuropathy,
macro vascular disease, anatomical problems or a previous foot problem, early
referral is desirable and regular review is necessary. Foot complications account for
over 50% of hospital bed days occupied by patients with diabetes and are the most
common cause of non-traumatic amputation.
Indigenous Health Workers
Where they are available, Aboriginal Health Workers have a key role in
providing culturally appropriate and practical support and counselling, thus
improving patient understanding and adherence to treatment programs.
Counselling the person with diabetes
The diagnosis of diabetes can be very stressful for both younger and older patients.
Initial denial of the condition (ie: a grief reaction) is normal. But if denial continues,
diabetes care can be compromised.
Patients, whose difficulties with accepting the diagnosis compromise their treatment
or who experience emotional or psychological distress, may benefit from Cognitive
Behaviour Therapy or other psychological interventions. General practitioners can
engage the help of a psychologist, social worker or counsellor. These practitioners
may be accessed as part of a Team Care Arrangement within a General Practice
Management Plan or under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and
General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Scheme Initiative.
The younger patient should become familiar with the condition, insulin and
diet and has to cope with feelings of dependence on medication for survival.
The older patient faces increasing vulnerability to sickness, disability and loss
of function. Fears may include job security, physical disfigurement and loss of ability
to contribute to present relationships.
The diagnosis of diabetes may have a profound effect on people engaged
in certain occupations, eg: machinery operators, pilots, heavy vehicle drivers, divers,
etc. While not always prohibiting many of these occupations, the diagnosis of
diabetes may require careful career counselling.
Lifestyles which have been established for many years are not easy to change
and health care professionals cannot expect immediate adherence to the plan
of management. Assess the SNAP risk factors (Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol and
The team approach 21
Physical activity) and establish a long term lifestyle plan.
It is important for the patient to have all the information available so that
a common sense of purpose between the health care professionals and the patient can
develop. This takes time and some patients may decide to reject advice.
Professionals need to maintain an open approach and emphasise that help
is available when required.
Weight reduction is often difficult. A combined program of healthy eating, physical
activity and education directed at behavioural changes is often successful. Carer and
peer encouragement helps these behavioural changes.
Health care professionals need to be sensitive to patient views concerning
diabetes and be ready to counsel. The normal stresses of daily living can
affect diabetes control. Seek opportunities to help patients regain control,
to improve self esteem and to understand and control their condition.
There is a range of approved educational materials produced by State and Territory
Diabetes Organisations which can be recommended to the newly diagnosed person
with diabetes.
Education is ongoing and needs to continue for the rest of the person’s life. Diabetes
knowledge, especially self care skills (blood glucose monitoring, foot care, insulin
administration) need to be assessed regularly (eg: as part of the complication screen
at the twelve monthly review).
Diabetes Management in General Practice
4 Initial management
Targets for glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes
Pre prandial blood
glucose (mmol/L)
Post prandial blood
glucose (mmol/L)
NHMRC values*
* NHMRC National Evidence Based Guidelines for Blood Glucose Control in Type 2 Diabetes, 2009
The aim of treatment of type 2 diabetes is normal blood glucose levels
(normoglycaemia). However, especially in the elderly, biochemical ideals should
be tempered by common sense and the need to remove symptoms and maintain
or improve quality of life. It is important to be clear about the aims of treatment.
Over-zealous management can result in severe hypoglycaemia and may be
associated with increased mortality. While there has been some discussion raised by
recent trials about ideal targets, the targets as listed above are currently accepted.
Patient blood glucose monitoring enables appropriate lifestyle and medication
adjustment. Long term glycaemic control is monitored by measuring glycosylated
haemoglobin (measured as HbA1c). The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes
Study (UKPDS) showed reduced incidence and progression of diabetes related
complications in subjects with a low HbAlc. The follow-up of the UKPDS and
DCCT-EDIC Studies confirms the importance of achieving and maintaining
good glycaemic control from diagnosis and the IDF suggests that an HbAlc
>7% should prompt more active hypoglycaemic treatment. The general HbA1c
target in people with type 2 diabetes is ≤7%. An HbA1c target >7% may
be appropriate in people with type 2 diabetes who have a history of severe
hypoglycaemia, a limited life expectancy, co-morbidities or who are elderly. The
Australian Diabetes Society Position Statement discusses individualisation of
HbA1c targets for adults with diabetes mellitus (www.diabetessociety.com.au/
Working toward the target level is important but any significant reduction
in HbA1c will improve patient outcomes.
Nutrition management involves controlling weight and the introduction
of a healthy eating plan.
Healthy eating is a critical component in the management of type 1 and type 2
diabetes. In over 50% of people presenting with type 2 diabetes restriction of energy
intake, increased activity and weight reduction will initially normalise blood glucose
Initial management 23
levels. Medication is likely to be needed later.
Maintaining cooperation during weight reduction can be a major problem.
A consistent coordinated approach by the general practitioner, dietitian and
diabetes educator helps the patient maintain the effort.
There is evidence that Indigenous communities in remote regions face
significant access barriers to nutritious and affordable food. Nutritious food
tends to cost more in rural and remote areas; cost may be an issue in low socioeconomic groups. Food choices can be significantly altered when people have
access to appropriate foods and education about nutrition.
Nutritional guidelines
While an appreciation of the dietary management of diabetes by the general
practitioner or physician is important, detailed instructions need to be given by a
dietitian. To find a qualified dietitian in your area, contact the Dietitians Association
on 1800 812 942 or refer to your usual dietitian. Constant reinforcement of dietary
advice usually results in enhanced cooperation and better control.
Healthy eating, body weight and regular physical activity are important objectives
in people with diabetes. The following criteria of ‘overweight’ apply to those of
European descent. Different criteria may apply to other groups:
Body Mass Index
BMI (kg/m2) = Weight (Kilograms)
Height squared (Metres2)
The healthy BMI is 18 to 24.9, overweight 25 to 29.9, obese ≥30. As a rough guide
the patient’s healthy weight (kg) is approximately: Height (cm) – 100
Alternatively waist circumference (cm) can be used.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Weight for height chart for men and women from 18 years onward
Healthy Weight
140 cm
150 cm
160 cm
170 cm
180 cm
190 cm
200 cm
There is some evidence that rates of obesity in the Indigenous population are
higher than in the general Australian population.
The diet for a person with diabetes is qualitatively no different from the Australian
Dietary Guidelines recommended for all people (whether they have diabetes,
hypertension, dyslipidaemia or not). The key issue of weight control is learning
to eat a range of foods in amounts appropriate for energy requirements.
In people with type 2 diabetes increased activity and elimination of concentrated
sources of energy with substitution with high fibre, carbohydrate foods will often
bring the condition under control. Unless the patient is very symptomatic, a trial
of at least 6 to 8 weeks of lifestyle modification is wise before hypoglycaemic
agents are considered.
Body weight
Loss of body weight will often result in near normal glycaemic, blood pressure
and lipid profiles. Often an ideal body weight is not achievable and setting
this as a goal discourages patients to attempt any dietary change. Many studies
suggest that a weight loss of 5 to 20% will improve glycaemic control. Therefore
it is important to encourage any degree of weight loss. A medium term goal for
overweight patients is 5–10% body weight loss.
Sources of hidden energy need to be identified and minimised: for example
alcohol, cakes and sweet beverages. A reduction in total energy intake of 2,000
kilojoules (475 calories) per day should result in a weight loss of 0.5 kg a week.
Initial management 25
Carbohydrate foods which are rich in fibre and have a low energy density are the
basis of the eating plan and it is recommended that they contribute up to 50% of
the total energy intake. Meals containing carbohydrate are spread evenly through the
day. Both the quantity of carbohydrate and the quality of carbohydrate will affect
blood glucose levels. The amount of carbohydrate has a larger effect on glycaemia
than the quality.
The quality of carbohydrate is reflected by its glycemic index (GI) which indicates the
post prandial glycaemic response to a particular carbohydrate food. This will have a
lesser but additional effect on blood glucose levels. The GI classifies carbohydrates as
slow acting (low), moderate (medium) and quickly absorbed (high). Some foods have
been GI tested in an accredited laboratory and the GI Symbol Program (sponsored
by Diabetes Australia, Sydney University and the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation) indicates the GI of the food on their labels.
The glycemic load (GL) refers to both the quantity and the quality of carbohydrate.
GL is the GI multiplied by the carbohydrate grams divided by 100. A lower GL
(less than 80 GL per day) is desirable for people with diabetes. In practice it is
recommended that people with diabetes have one high fibre, low GI carbohydrate
food at each meal. This would include wholegrain breads, rolled oats, low fat, low
sugar breakfast cereals, pasta, beans, lentils and temperate fruits. Other carbohydrate
foods can be included but in lesser amounts. These include rice, potato and tropical
Sugar does not need to be eliminated. Including a small amount of sugar as part of a
mixed meal or food, eg: breakfast cereal, does not adversely affect the blood glucose level.
Allowing small amounts of sugar as part of a high fibre, low fat meal plan increases the
choice of foods available and may aid adherence.
Low carbohydrate, high protein diets may predispose the person to hypoglycaemia if
they are taking a sulphonylurea or insulin. Those adopting these diets should be made
aware of the risk and the appropriate precautions.
Dietary fat
It is recommended that fat contribute to less than 30% of total energy intake. This
has a beneficial effect on serum lipids and helps with weight reduction. Saturated
fats in the diet will have an adverse effect on general lipid profiles.
The most common sources of oils and fats are:
• Additives in cooking
• Dairy products
• Meat
• Snack and takeaway foods.
Fried foods need to be avoided (even with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils).
Monounsaturated fats (Ω–9 fatty acids) as in olive oil or canola have a LDL-C
Diabetes Management in General Practice
lowering effect. Likewise seed sourced polyunsaturated oils (Ω–6 polyunsaturated)
lower LDL-C. Fish oils (Ω–3 polyunsaturated oils) in doses of 5 g/day lower
triglyceride levels. They also inhibit platelet aggregation and may protect against
thrombosis in diseased blood vessels.
The main thrust of management is to lower total fat intake and to find
substitutes for saturated fats.
Low fat milk could be used as a substitute for whole milk and some ‘light’
margarines have 40% of the fat content of standard margarines. Alternative spreads
are reduced fat cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. Some margarines contain plant
sterols that reduce cholesterol absorption and cholesterol levels.
There is considerable variation in the fat content of meats, depending on the source
and cut. It is best to ask the butcher what is ‘lean’ and what is not, especially since
the ‘new cuts’ are much lower in fat.
Dietary protein
It is recommended that protein contribute 10–20% of total energy. The average
Australian diet achieves this without difficulty. Selection of type of protein depends
on patient preferences taking into consideration the fat content of each source.
Vegetable sources of proteins such as beans and pulses are very low in fat.
Additional considerations
As many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, alcohol should
be minimised. Australian guidelines at the time of publication recommend
≤2 standard drinks (20 g) per day for men and women. Low alcohol beers are a
better choice than ordinary or diet beers.
Although Indigenous people are less likely than nonIndigenous people to drink alcohol, those who do are more likely to drink at
hazardous levels. Hazardous drinking is more prevalent among Indigenous
Australian males and females aged 35–44 years than the general population.
Added salt in cooking and in foods needs to be minimised. Recommend the use of
‘low salt’ or ‘no added salt’ products.
Although small amounts of sugar can be included, alternative sweeteners may
still have a role in management. Suitable sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose,
acesulphame K, alitame, saccharin and cyclamates. It should be noted that all
sweeteners are deemed by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand as
suitable and safe for use in pregnancy, although some are known to cross the
Initial management 27
placenta. If concerned, pregnant women should speak to their health professional.
The inclusion of sugar alcohols, eg: sorbitol, is not recommended as these offer
no advantage over sucrose in improving metabolic control, increasing cooperation
or in managing weight loss.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is common in people with type 2
diabetes. In 100 people with type 2 diabetes in general practice 40 will have
NAFLD and of these 8-12 will have non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and
1-2 will progress to cirrhosis. Most patients are asymptomatic. Fatty liver disease
is associated with abnormal liver function tests (especially raised ALT), a “bright
liver” on ultrasound and other features of the metabolic syndrome. There is no
evidence that any medication improves outcomes and the mainstay of treatment is
lifestyle change.
Physical activity
• Regular physical activity improves metabolic control and reduces
other cardiovascular risks.
atients on insulin or sulphonylureas may need to take special
precautions to prevent hypoglycaemia.
Appropriate care of feet during physical activity is important.
Increasing physical activity improves metabolic control in people with diabetes.
Low level aerobic exercise (eg: brisk walking for half an hour per day) and physical
resistance training have the following benefits:
Improved glucose tolerance as insulin sensitivity increases
Increased energy expenditure resulting in weight loss
Increased feeling of well being
Increased work capacity
Improved blood pressure and lipid profiles.
Aerobic training which ‘makes you puff ’ and brings the heart rate up to 60–70%
of maximum (220 – age [years] beats per minute) for a minimum of 30 minutes
3 or 4 times per week, establishes and maintains fitness and aerobic capacity. Active
Australia recommends >150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical
activity (eg: walking).
When prescribing a physical activity program a careful history should be taken.
Special attention needs to be paid to exertion-induced symptoms such as chest
or abdominal discomfort or syncope. People with type 2 diabetes frequently have
silent macrovascular disease. Consider second yearly ECG if a patient is over 50
years old and has at least one vascular risk factor. Screening with a stress ECG is not
Diabetes Management in General Practice
indicated in asymptomatic individuals, but specific symptoms need to be actively
Isometric exercises such as heavy weight lifting (high load, low repetition) may
increase blood pressure, increasing the risk of vitreous haemorrhage and sudden
cardiac events. However, resistance programs using moderate weights and high
repetition can be part of an exercise program for those with diabetes and have been
shown to improve glycaemic control.
People requiring insulin may need to increase their carbohydrate intake and/
or decrease their insulin before exercise. They need to also carry some refined
carbohydrate with them. Similarly people with type 2 diabetes taking sulphonylureas
may need to take extra food and/or reduce their medication.
People requiring insulin need to be aware of potential delayed effects of physical
activity on glucose levels, in particular delayed hypoglycaemia 6–12 hours after
cessation of the activity. People with diabetes need to be advised to cease their
activity if they develop cardiovascular symptoms or just feel unwell. However,
patients with leg or buttock claudication need to be encouraged to continue
physical activity with intermittent rests when leg or buttock pain occurs since this
will gradually increase their capacity to exercise.
The importance of appropriate foot care and comfortable, well-fitting footwear
during physical activity needs to be stressed, especially if there is neuropathy,
vascular disease, abnormal foot structure or previous foot ulcer(s).
Lower levels of physical activity have been reported for Indigenous people and
people living in rural and remote areas. There is poor access to facilities for
physical activity in many Indigenous communities.
Initial management 29
5 Health care for diabetes
Self-monitoring is recommended for those on agents that can
cause hypoglycaemia.
ome blood glucose monitoring is the method of choice in
most patients.
he method and frequency of testing need to reflect
therapeutic aims.
Blood glucose monitoring is recommended for those on agents that can cause
hypoglycaemia (eg: sulphonylureas and insulin). A balance should be reached
considering the patient’s age, need for ideal control and ensuring long term
cooperation. Despite some recent controversial studies, the current view is that
blood glucose monitoring is recommended.
Initially close supervision is recommended. A suggested initial schedule of testing is
3 to 4 blood glucose tests daily (early morning, plus other tests before + after meals).
Frequent consultation with health care professionals is important.
Self-monitoring needs to be individualised and assist people with diabetes to
understand the impact of medication, food and physical activity on blood
glucose control. Frequency of self-monitoring can be determined according to the
individual's self management goals.
In elderly patients testing on 1 or 2 days per week, varying the time, may be
adequate if diabetes control is good.
Monitoring in type 2 diabetes need not be as intensive as with type 1 diabetes
except when the normal pattern is broken (eg: travelling, the festive season,
intercurrent illness, changes to medication and diet). The ideal would be blood
glucose estimation before + after meals. A reasonable approach in a patient with
stable glycaemic control would include blood glucose estimation at different times
of the day on 2–3 days each week.
Values before meals give information about baseline glycaemia which is affected by
general factors such as weight, diet, activity and long acting medication. Values after
meals give information about peak glycaemia which is affected by the baseline level,
the food eaten and short acting medication.
People on either insulin or hypoglycaemic agents must be able to identify ‘hypos’
and understand treatment. Blood glucose monitoring can be of help.
Targets for self-monitored blood glucose levels are 4–8 mmol/L fasting and pre
prandial, and 6–10 mmol/L 2 hours post prandial (see page 23), depending on the
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Many people learn to adjust their treatment schedule according to blood glucose levels
and thus improve glycaemic control. People can measure their blood glucose using
reagent strips that are read in the meter and/or visually (for some strips). Meters today
are quick, reliable and simple to use. Use of the meter should be demonstrated. People
need to be competent in the technique of blood glucose monitoring before treatment
decisions based on the readings are made. All meters need regular quality control checks
by the user. All self blood glucose measurement systems have quality control materials.
Medical monitoring
Regular follow-up visits offer an opportunity for the general practitioner and patient
to explore the patient’s understanding, fears and concerns about diabetes. Some
practices run diabetes clinics, often delivered by practice nurses. The use of practice
protocols, checklists and algorithms that have been developed by the doctors and
nurses in a practice ensures the practice nurse can undertake a large proportion of the
routine care (under the clinical oversight of the doctor).
The following is a guide for the doctor’s oversight of patients. A suggested checklist
for nurse activity appears at the end of each section. Results of nurse consultation
should be incorporated into the clinical record. As this checklist assumes the
knowledge and clinical experience of a registered nurse, practices should use it
according to the professional and clinical status of their nursing staff.
Quarterly review
• Discourage smoking • Review symptoms
• Check weight, BP
• Review self-monitoring
Once control is achieved the routine visit should review:
Review SNAP profiles (Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol, Physical activity), patient’s
record of home testing and quality control results, foot symptoms.
Check weight/waist, height (children and adolescents), blood pressure, feet
examination if new symptoms or at risk (eg: neuropathy ± peripheral vascular disease).
Measure glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) at least six monthly.
Watch for intercurrent illnesses such as urinary tract infections, thyrotoxicosis etc
which may alter degree of control. Asymptomatic urinary infections are common
in patients with diabetes, especially older women.
Health care for diabetes 31 Quarterly nursing review
Ask about:Smoking
Alcohol intake
How much exercise and how often
Any problems with medication
Height (children and adolescents)
Blood pressure
Feet examination without shoes, if new symptoms or at risk
(eg: neuropathy ± peripheral vascular disease)
Goals with patient to identify specific areas of focus for
doctor consultation
Annual review
• Review goals of management • Check for diabetic complications
• Update immunisation schedule • Consider specialist referral
The yearly review is a time for more detailed assessment, updating the problem priority
list and re-establishment of goals, and contractual arrangements for management.
Eating plan, lifestyle, home monitoring and treatment need to be reviewed.
There needs to be a full system review checking for vascular, renal, eye, nerve and
podiatric problems. As there is an increasing trend towards involving specialist allied
health professionals, the yearly visit is a good opportunity to coordinate follow-up.
Full physical assessment:
• Cardiovascular system
• Peripheral nervous system
• Eyes
• Feet
• Influenza
Once per year
• Pneumococcal
Non-Indigenous adults:
<65 – single dose and revaccinate 5 years later and again 5
years after first revaccination or at age 65 (whichever is later)
>65 – single dose and revaccinate 5 years later
Indigenous adults:
<50 – single dose and revaccinate 5 years later and again 5
years after first revaccination or at age 50 (whichever is later)
>50 – single dose and revaccinate 5 years later
• Tetanus
Booster at age 50 (unless booster has been given within
10 years)
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Investigations: (annually if below target, more frequently if being actively treated)
Lipids – triglyceride; HDL-C, LDL-C and total cholesterol
Renal – microalbuminuria and plasma creatinine (eGFR)
ECG – second yearly if age >50 years plus >1 other cardiovascular risk
Ophthalmologist/optometrist – second yearly with no retinopathy, more frequently
if abnormal.
Diabetes educator, dietitian, podiatrist – if patient has or has developed a problem
requiring review.
Pharmacist – for a Home Medicines Review if the patient is likely to have problems
with medication (eg: taking more than 5 types).
Oral health professional – especially if peridontal disease is present. Annual nursing review
Ask about:Smoking
Nutrition (last contact with dietitian or diabetes educator)
Alcohol intake
How much exercise and how often
Any problems with medication
Any changes in medication (by doctor/pharmacist or patient)
Chest pain
Vision (when last checked)
Any foot discomfort
When was last podiatry and dental check
Immunisations (include Flu and Pneumovax)
Family history and update
Height (children and adolescents)
Blood pressure
Feet examination: without shoes, pulses, monofilament check
Blood glucose at examination
Visual acuity
Goals with patient to identify specific areas of focus for
doctor consultation
Last care plan to identify timely referrals
Registration with NDSS/membership of State or Territory Diabetes
Health care for diabetes 33
The use of a check list and a separate sheet in the patient’s notes (preferably attached
to the front of the problem list) can be used to record the frequency and results of
these assessments.
Medical software incorporates acceptable forms of diabetes records. These accrue
to support the annual cycle of care which can be used for the Medicare items
(see page 36).
Systems for care
Diabetes is a complex disorder and requires a systematic approach to care.
There is evidence that this approach in the general practice setting results in
better outcomes.
A systematic approach to care is facilitated by the use of:
1. Disease register: This is a list of all patients in the practice with diabetes and
basic demographic data. The register can also include clinical information. This
allows tracking of patients’ clinical status and their need for ongoing care.
2. Recall system: This facilitates timely recall of patients when certain aspects of
their care require review eg: recall for annual review, ophthalmologist review, etc.
3. Flow charts: Included in the patients’ notes these allow following of clinical
parameters and flag when interventions or investigations are necessary.
4. Review charts: Included in the patients’ notes, these are checklists for annual
and three monthly reviews to facilitate thorough coverage of all issues at these
milestone consultations.
The RACGP and General Practice networks have resources to assist practices in
establishing such systematic approaches to the care of their patients with diabetes.
5.3.1 How Medicare supports the process
The Australian Government supports high quality care through a series of
non-fee-for-service payments to general practitioners and general practices.
These include the Enhanced Primary Care Program and the Practice Incentive
Program. The Practice Incentive Program is only available to general practices
either accredited or working towards accreditation by the RACGP.
As a result of these programs, services performed by a number of allied health
professionals (including diabetes educators, Aboriginal health workers, dietitians,
psychologists, podiatrists, exercise physiologists and dentists) may attract a rebate
when a patient sees them within the Enhanced Primary Care Program. There are
also Medicare items for group intervention services provided by eligible dietitians,
diabetes educators and exercise physiologists within this system.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
All Australians are eligible to have a Medicare funded eye check by an optometrist,
with or without a GP referral, once every 2 years. Many optometrists bulk bill this
check. People with diabetes can use this for diabetes eye checks.
The National Integrated Diabetes Program was established to improve the
prevention, early diagnosis and management of people with diabetes. The initiative
includes a general practice incentive, a general practice network incentive and
a community awareness campaign. The incentive program requires practices to
register and create a patient register and recall/reminder system, with additional
incentives for completing an annual cycle of care and further incentive for reaching
target levels of care for people with diabetes.
Some people with diabetes will require complex medication schedules and a
Home Medicines Review may be useful (Medicare item 900). This involves a
pharmacist assessing people who may have problems with their medications, and
recommending changes to improve effectiveness, safety and adherence.
Some patients find diabetes a significant burden. They may benefit from the
support of a psychologist, social worker or counsellor. Access to these practitioners
is available under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General
Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Scheme Initiative.
Practice nurses do not have the ability to charge Medicare rebatable items
for care related to diabetes. General practitioners who work in urban areas
of workforce need can apply for grants to employ nurses (under the program
Strengthening Medicare) as can rural practitioners through the ongoing rural
nurse program grants.
The Medicare Benefits Schedule item number 715 provides for
a health check for Indigenous people who have not had the check
in the previous 18 months. There are time based health check
items for all Indigenous people (items 701,703,705,707: see
Preparation of a GP Management Plan (item 721) and coordinating the
development of Team Care Arrangements (item 723) are also appropriate
supports for comprehensive management of diabetes for Indigenous people.
Health care for diabetes 35
Required annual cycle of care
12 monthly review
Issues under control?
Consider GPMP and TCA
Continue management
and monitoring
Issues under control?
3 monthly review
3 monthly GPMP
and TCA review
Issues under control? No
Annual review:
Refer 5.2.2, page 32
Refer 5.3.3 & 5.3.4, page 37
GPMP/TCA review: Refer 5.3.3 & 5.3.4, page 37
3 monthly review: Refer 5.2.1, page 31
Item numbers which can be used are:
Vocationally registered GPs
Level B
Level C
Level D
Non-vocationally registered GPs
Standard consultation
Long consultation
Prolonged consultation
Diabetes Management in General Practice
In addition, general practitioners working in accredited practices who have
applied for PIP (Practice Incentive Program) will attract SIP (Service Incentive
Program) payment for themselves and PIP payments for their practices
(see www.medicareaustralia.gov.au).
The SIP cycle requires:
Blood pressure
Ht/wt/waist (BMI)
Feet exam
Glycaemic control (HbA1c)
Blood lipids
Eye exam
Healthy eating plan
Physical activity
Self care education
every 6 months
every 6 months
every 6 months
once per year
once per year
once per year
at least every 2 years
review once per year
review once per year
review once per year
review once per year
review once per year
These are the levels of care for the SIP cycle payment and obviously more care will
be required for those with complications and co-risk factors.
5.3.3 General Practice Management Plans (GPMP)
These are documented plans developed by the general practitioner and patient
together, that incorporate the patient’s needs, goals, how this is to be achieved and
reference to any other resources used. Templates for use are available via medical
software and General Practice networks.
Item numbers which can be used are:
Initial preparation:
Payable 1–2 yearly depending on need for revision
Review of plan:
Payable every 3–6 months, but not within 3 months of 721
(* item 732 replaces 725)
Involvement in GPMP developed by another provider
Involvement in a care plan developed by an aged care facility 731
5.3.4 Team Care Arrangements (TCA)
These are an expansion of the GPMP which detail the allied health workers who
implement any part of the GPMP.
Health care for diabetes 37
Item numbers which can be used are:
Initial preparation:
Payable 1–2 yearly depending on need for revision
Review of plan:
Payable every 3–6 months, but not within 3 months of 723
(* item 732 replaces 727 and is the same item number as the review for 721)
Ongoing monitoring and support provided by a practice
nurse on behalf of a GP for up to 5 visits, for a person with a
chronic condition who has an operational GPMP
Access to allied health and dental EPC items requires a GPMP and TCA, or item 731 if
in an aged care facility. GPMP and TCA can be developed and claimed simultaneously.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
6 Medication
Multiple interventions and medications are needed to control the multiple risk
factors associated with type 2 diabetes (hyperglycaemia, hypertension, dyslipidaemia
and increased thrombogenesis).
Hypoglycaemic agents
Medication will not substitute for healthy eating and activity.
etformin is the medication of choice in the overweight person
with type 2 diabetes.
eight gain can be a problem with sulphonylureas and
thiazolidinediones and hypoglycaemia can be a problem with
sulphonylureas. Acarbose may cause flatulence and diarrhoea.
Fluid retention can occur during glitazone therapy and caution is
necessary in cardiac failure.
Allergy to a specific medication is a contraindication to its use.
If a trial of healthy lifestyle for 6 weeks or more is unsuccessful in controlling
blood glucose in a person with type 2 diabetes, hypoglycaemic agents can be used
(see chart pages 44–45). If the patient is symptomatic at initial diagnosis or the blood
glucose level is very high (>20 mmol/L), medication can be used early to decrease
glucose levels and relieve symptoms.
Metformin is the medication of first choice in people with diabetes (see chart
pages 44–45). Metformin reduces hepatic glucose output and insulin resistance.
Metformin has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of diabetes-related
morbidity and mortality in overweight patients. Renal impairment is the only absolute
contraindication to metformin (ie: a raised serum creatinine which usually reflects
significantly impaired renal function). Metformin is contraindicated in people with a
GFR <30 ml/min and should be used with caution in people with a GFR of 30–45 ml/
min. Metformin should be used with caution in people with hepatic or cardiac disease
and those with a heavy alcohol intake.
Sulphonylureas increase insulin secretion and can be used after a trial of healthy
lifestyle and metformin.
Acarbose is useful when blood glucose values remain high after meals despite dietary
modification. Acarbose inhibits the digestion of carbohydrate and thus slows the
rate of glucose delivery into the circulation. Acarbose needs to be taken at the time
of starting the meal and introduced gradually to avoid flatulence and abdominal
discomfort. If hypoglycaemia occurs (because of concurrent sulphonylurea or
insulin treatment) glucose rather than other carbohydrates is required. Care is
Medication 39
necessary in those with renal impairment or gastrointestinal disease and liver
enzymes need to be monitored.
The glitazones (pioglitazone and rosaglitazone) are effective in lowering blood
glucose by reducing insulin resistance.
Both glitazones can be used as dual therapy with metformin or sulphonylureas.
Pioglitazone can also be used in triple therapy with metformin and a sulphonylurea or in
combination with insulin. Contraindications include moderate to severe cardiac failure.
Pioglitazone may increase the risk of bladder cancer in patients exposed to the drug for
more than two years and should not be used in patients with a history of bladder cancer.
Rosiglitazone is not indicated in triple therapy with metformin and a sulphonylurea
or in combination with insulin. Contraindications include mild, moderate to severe,
or any history of cardiac failure.
Rosiglitazone is not recommended in patients with known ischaemic heart disease,
particularly in those taking nitrates. Refer to Product Information for more details.
Care is necessary in those with any degree of cardiac failure or liver dysfunction.
Two classes of medications now target the glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) actions.
GLP-1 enhances insulin secretion and inhibits glucagon secretion in a glucose
dependent manner. GLP-1 increases satiety and decreases gastric emptying. Both
fasting and post prandial glucose are reduced.
Two different pharmacological strategies target the GLP-1 axis.
1. DPP-4 inhibitors. Four medications inhibit DPP-4 and increase and prolong
the action of native GLP-1 (linagliptin, Trajenta; saxagliptin, Onglyza; sitagliptin,
Januvia and vildagliptin, Galvus). They are all subsidised by the PBS. They mainly
improve post-prandial BGLs, are weight neutral and do not cause hypoglycaemia,
unless used in combination with sulphonylureas.
2. GLP-1 agonists. Naturally occurring or synthetic analogues of GLP-1 are
currently under development. One agonist (exenatide, Byetta) is available for use in
patients with type 2 diabetes. It can decrease fasting and post-prandial BGLs as well
as causing weight loss.
Patients starting on exenatide should commence therapy with the 5 µg dose
administered by subcutaneous injection twice daily before the morning and evening
meal. After one month, the dose is up titrated to the maintenance dose of 10 µg bd.
Exenatide is available in a disposable pen injector and needles are available through
state and territory diabetes organisations to members and non-members alike (see
page 82). Patients should be warned that nausea and anorexia can occur in the first
few weeks but this is usually mild and doesn’t persist. However, 5–10% of patients
may have to discontinue this therapy because of side effects.
Risk of hypoglycaemia
With sulphonylureas, special care needs to be taken, especially in the elderly, not
Diabetes Management in General Practice
to precipitate hypoglycaemia. When used as mono therapy, metformin, acarbose,
glitazones, GLP-1 mimetics and DPP-4 inhibitors will not cause hypoglycaemia. All
the sulphonylureas can cause hypoglycaemia. People taking sulphonylureas or insulin
may need to notify motor vehicle licensing authorities and their insurance company as
these medications can affect driving performance (see page 78).
Titration of hypoglycaemic therapy
With suphynolureas and metformin, start with a small dose and increase weekly
or fortnightly until control occurs. If control is not occurring check the patient’s
understanding of management and monitoring skills and if these are satisfactory, look
for other exacerbating factors such as occult urinary tract infection or medications which
may interfere with control.
If a patient continues to lose weight while on hypoglycaemic agents the dose may
be reduced and sometimes stopped.
Most people with diabetes will require increasing doses and additional medications
as their diabetes progresses. Insulin therapy may also be required.
Main side effects of hypoglycaemic agents
• Anorexia, nausea, vomiting
• Diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, flatulence
• Lactic acidosis (if renal, liver
or cardiovascular disease exist)
GLP-1 agents:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Injection site reactions
• Possible pancreatitis
• Weight gain
• Symptomatic hypoglycaemia
• Anorexia, nausea, diarrhoea,
skin rashes
• Occasionally blood dyscrasias
• Increased subcutaneous fat and/or fluid
• Decreased haemoglobin levels
• Increased risk of peripheral fractures
in women
• Possible increased risk of myocardial
infarction (rosiglitazone)
• Increased LDL-C (rosiglitazone)
• Flatulence and abdominal bloating
• Non response to carbohydrates other
than glucose if hypoglycaemic
• (Rare) liver abnormalities
• Nasopharyngitis
• Hypertriglyceridaemia
• Cough
• Upper respiratory infection
• Urinary tract infection
• Headache
• Nasopharyngitis
• Headache
• Upper respiratory tract symptoms
• Dizziness
• Tremor
• Headache
Medication 41
Effects of non-diabetes medications
Beware of interaction with other medications which increase or decrease blood glucose action:
Reduce blood glucose
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Salicylates – in high doses*
Increase blood glucose
Adrenergic compounds
Thiazide diuretics (high dose)
ow dose aspirin (100–300 mg/d) does not cause problems.
Socioeconomic disadvantage, increased co-morbidity and higher family
burden of chronic disease can create a significant barrier to affordability of
medications for the Indigenous population. Evidence also suggests that some
Indigenous people are uncomfortable seeking medicines advice, and the
consumer medicine information provided is often difficult to understand,
culturally inappropriate and unlikely to be utilised. Medication sharing is
common in some communities.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Treatment algorithm: PBS approved medications for type 2 diabetes
Lifestyle Modification
• Diet modification
• Weight control
• Physical activity
• The algorithm is based on that published by the NHMRC.
• The algorithm includes only therapeutic agents available through the PBS.
• If HbA1c >7% consider intensifying treatment provided hypoglycaemia is not a problem.
# DPP-4 inhibitors (gliptins) are PBS subsidised only for dual therapy with metformin or sulphonylurea where
combination therapy metformin and sulphonylurea is contraindicated or not tolerated. Exenatide is approved for use
as dual or triple therapy with oral agents.
* Rosiglitazone is not authorised for triple therapy or for use with insulin but is approved only as dual therapy with
metformin or sulphonylurea where combination metformin and sulphonylurea is contraindicated or not tolerated.
† Insulin is frequently required for glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes and can be initiated as basal therapy
or as premixed insulins, usually in combination with oral antidiabetic medications.
Medication 43
Brand name
Tablet size
Chemical name: Acarbose (a)
50/100 mg
Chemical name: Glibenclamide (b)
5 mg
5 mg
Chemical name: Gliclazide (b)
Diamicron 80 mg
Genrx gliclazide
80 mg
80 mg
80 mg
80 mg
Chemical name: Gliclazide ER* (b)
Apo-Gliclazide MR
30 g
Diamicron MR
60 mg
Glyade MR
30 mg
Oziclide MR
30 mg
Chemical name: Glimepiride (b)
1/2/3/4 mg
Glimepiride GA
Glimepiride Sandoz
Pharmacor Glimepiride
Chemical name: Glipizide (b)
5 mg
Chemical name: Metformin (c,e)
0.5/0.85 g/1.0 g
0.5/0.85 g/1.0 g
0.5/0.85 g/1.0 g
0.5/0.85 g/1.0 g
Genrx metformin
0.5/0.85 g
0.5/0.85 g
0.5/0.85 g
0.5/0.85 g
0.5/0.85 g
Metformin GA
0.5/0.85 g
Metformin (Genepharm)
0.5/0.85 g
Metformin (Generic Health) 0.5/0.85 g/1.0 g
Metformin (Ranbaxy)
0.5/0.85 g
Metformin (Sandoz)
0.5/0.85 g /1.0 g
Pharmacor Metformin
0.5/0.85 g /1.0 g
Chemical name: Metformin ER* (c)
Diabex XR
0.5 g/1.0 g
Diaformin XR
0.5 g
Metex XR
0.5 g
dose range
Approx Frequency Administration
duration (time/day) (time/day)
150–600 mg
2.5–20 mg
18–24 h 1–2
With meals
40–320 mg
18–24 h 1–2
With meals
30–120 mg
24 h
1–4 mg
>24 h
2.5–40 mg
16–24 h 1–2
With meals
0.5–3.0 g
12 h
With/after meals
0.5–2.0 g
24 h
With evening
Diabetes Management in General Practice
With meals
With meals
Daily dose
Chemical name: Metformin/glibenclamide (b,c,e)
250/1.25 mg
up to 2000/20
500/2.5 mg
500/5.0 mg
Chemical name: Metformin/ rosiglitazone (c,d,e,f)
500/2 mg
up to
500/4 mg
2000/8 mg
1000/2 mg
1000/4 mg
Chemical name: Metformin/sitagliptin (c, e, f)
500/50 mg
up to
850/50 mg
2000/100 mg
1000/50 mg
Chemical name: Metformin/vildagliptin (c, e, f)
500/50 mg
up to
850/50 mg
2000/100 mg
1000/50 mg
Chemical name: Pioglitazone (d, e, f,)
15/30/45 mg
15–45 mg
Pharmacor pioglitazone
Pioglitazone Generic Health
Pioglitazone Sandoz
Pioglitazone GA
Chemical name: Rosiglitazone (d,e,f)
4/8 mg
4–8 mg
Chemical name: Saxagliptin (f,h)
5 mg
Brand name
Tablet size
Approx Frequency Administration
duration (time/day) (time/day)
18–24 h 2–3
With meals
12–24 h 2
With meals
> 24h
With meals
24 h
With meals
24 h
Without regard
to meals
24 h
Without regard
to meals
2.5–5 mg
>24 h
Without regard
to meals
Chemical name: Linagliptin (f)
5 mg
5 mg
24 h
Without regard
to meals
Chemical name: Sitagliptin (f,h)
25/50/100 mg
100 mg
>24 h
Without regard
to meals
Chemical name: Vildagliptin (f,h)
50 mg
50–100 mg
>24 h
Without regard
to meals
Chemical name: Exenatide
Twice daily non-insulin hypoglycaemic agent. Inject 5 µg bd subcutaneously
one hour before two main meals and at least 6 hours apart. After one month
increase to 10 µg bd.
Note: Oral agents need to be used with special care in the elderly.
(a) Care renal, gastrointestinal disease (d) Thiazolidenedione
(g) Private script
(b) Sulphonylurea
(e) Care renal, liver and cardiovascular disease (h) Care renal insufficiency
(c) Metformin
(f ) Streamlined authority required
* ER = Extended Release
Medication 45
6.2 Insulin treatment
Starting insulin in type 2 diabetes
Insulin may be required if adequate control has not occurred on maximum doses
of hypoglycaemic agents. However, ensure that exercise and dietary management
are satisfactory and exacerbating factors eg: intercurrent infection, problems with
medication (see page 72) have been excluded.
Insulin may be needed early in the condition when treatment is being started
(the so-called ‘primary’ failure of oral hypoglycaemic agents that suggests the
patient actually has type 1 diabetes) or when the patient has later become refractory
to oral hypoglycaemic agents (so-called ‘secondary’ failure consistent with the usual
progression of type 2 diabetes).
If the patient is symptomatic then insulin is required. If there are no symptoms but
fasting blood glucose levels are consistently >7.0 mmol/L, the decision is more difficult.
When deciding glycaemic targets and considering insulin treatment, take into
account: life expectancy, existing physical and psychosocial problems and potential
problems with insulin.
The selection of treatment goals, treatment schedules and monitoring schedules
needs to be a decision arrived at after discussion with the patient and may be the
stimulus for a General Practice Management Plan (see page 37).
Initiation of treatment with insulin is regarded as a major step by most patients.
They require encouragement and psychological support.
At this stage the help of a physician with a special interest in diabetes may
be useful.
Insulin is not a substitute for healthy eating, activity and weight
control in type 2 diabetes.
Inappropriate use of insulin produces weight gain and continuing
poor control.
Step guide to insulin treatment in type 2 diabetes
Basal insulin
People with type 2 diabetes requiring insulin can often be managed with a single daily
dose of intermediate or long acting insulin added to their oral hypoglycaemic schedule.
Quick acting insulin is not necessarily needed. A recommended starting schedule is
a single dose of basal insulin (eg: 10 units at bedtime or breakfast). The basal insulin
can be isophane or glargine. Glargine may cause less hypoglycaemia than isophane.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Initially other hypoglycaemic therapies can be continued until glycaemia is controlled.
Thereafter they can be phased out and insulin doses adjusted as necessary.
In the long term metformin can be continued or added to reduce insulin resistance
(and dose) and to help reduce weight gain.
Step 1
Check that diet, activity and oral medication are appropriate and that complicating
medical conditions are not present.
Step 2 – Decide the time and type of insulin
Blood Glucose
Blood Glucose
Night-time basal
Morning basal
Twice daily isophane/once daily glargine
Step 3 – Dosage
Decide the target (see page 23)
Decide the dose: ‘start low and go slow’ (eg: 10 units basal)
Single dose:
morning or evening
ess may be required in elderly, active, thin patients and more in the overweight
and underactive.
Step 4 – Adjust doses
Change doses in increments of 10–20% (eg: 2–4 units) at intervals of 2–4 days.
Mixed insulins may be needed.
Pre mixed insulin
Alternatively, pre mixed insulin (human or analogue) can be used with a single
dose before the largest meal (often the evening meal) or twice daily doses (before
breakfast and the evening meal). As with basal insulin, the dose should ‘start low
and go slow’ (eg: starting dose 10 units with changes in increments of 10–20% at
intervals of 2–4 days).
Choosing the insulin
Short acting insulin
The speed of onset and length of action is shortest for the insulin analogues,
followed by human neutral insulin and then by bovine neutral insulin.
Medication 47
Intermediate insulin
The isophane/NPH preparations can be used in injectors or syringes and do not
affect the kinetics of added neutral insulin. The isophane/NPH preparations have
replaced the insulin zinc suspension (lente type) preparations.
Long acting insulin
The absorption profile of new analogue basal insulin preparations (insulin detemir,
insulin glargine) is longer, flatter and more reproducible than previous long-acting
preparations. At the time of writing, the only long acting analogue insulin subsidised
by the PBS for insulin therapy in type 2 diabetes is insulin glargine (Lantus). The
bovine isophane preparation is longer acting than the human isophane preparations
which may not provide 24-hour cover.
Pre mixed insulin
Although the fixed proportions of intermediate and quick acting insulin
(eg: 30% neutral, 70% intermediate) may not be ideal for glycaemic control, these
preparations are very convenient for patients to use.
Diet, exercise and insulin
The depot of insulin will work whether the person is eating or undertaking physical
activity. Both exercise and eating should be regular to increase the predictability in
blood glucose levels.
Insulin delivery
Sites for insulin injections
• Abdominal wall: Generally fastest and the most uniform rate of absorption.
• Legs: Slowest absorption (unless exercising). Acceptable site.
• Arms: Not recommended.
Injections should be subcutaneous.
Insulin pens
Insulin injectors are like large fountain pens with a cartridge of insulin inserted like an
ink cartridge. They make injections much simpler since drawing up is unnecessary.
Older people may find the Innolet injector easier to use because it is larger and
markings are more visible.
With insulin injectors, multiple daily injection schedules become much easier and
people can be more flexible in their self management.
Needles are available through State and Territory Diabetes Organisations to
members and non-members alike.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Free insulin syringes and subsidised test strips for self-monitoring are available
through State and Territory Diabetes Organisations to members and non-members
alike. To be eligible, patients must register with the National Diabetes Services
Scheme (NDSS) by contacting their State or Territory Diabetes Organisation on
1300 136 588 (see page 82).
Patients often reuse syringes but in situations where injections are given
by visiting nursing staff, single use only is recommended. In children it may
be desirable to reduce the number of uses of a single use syringe to keep the
needle sharp.
Insulin pumps
Insulin pumps are used by some people with type 2 diabetes (refer 6.6 New
technology page 52). The pump is attached to the person’s clothing and infuses
ultra short acting insulin at variable rates into the subcutaneous tissues through
an infusion set. Insulin pumps can be programmed to provide variable basal
insulin infusion rates throughout the day and can also provide preprandial doses
of bolus insulin.
Sharps disposal
People can dispose of sharps (blood-letting lancets, syringes etc) in an approved
sharps disposal container. Arrangements for the collection of sharps vary in
different States and Territories (eg: local council, hospital). People can contact their
State or Territory Diabetes Organisation for advice.
Follow up
The insulin schedule and dosing should be reviewed at each consultation
to review diabetes. The insulin dosage may need to be reduced if the person adopts
a healthier lifestyle and/or loses weight.
Medication 49
Insulins available
Brand Name
ULTRA SHORT ACTING (peak at 1hr, last 3.5–4.5 hrs)
Insulin lispro
Insulin aspart
Novo Nordisk
Insulin glulisine
Novo Nordisk
Humulin R
Hypurin Neutral
Novo Nordisk
Hypurin Isophane
Insulin detemir (up to 24 hrs)
Novo Nordisk
Insulin glargine (24 hrs)
Lispro 25%
Lispro protamine 75%
Humalog Mix 25+
Lispro 50%
Lispro protamine 50%
Humalog Mix 50+
Insulin aspart 30%
Insulin aspart protamine 70%
NovoMix 30+
Novo Nordisk
Humulin 30/70
Mixtard 30/70
Novo Nordisk
Mixtard 50/50
Novo Nordisk
SHORT ACTING (peak at 2–5 hrs, last 6–8 hrs)
Humulin NPH
Neutral 30%
Isophane 70%
Neutral 50%
Isophane 50%
The pharmacokinetics of the different insulins are patient dependent. Please review product information for
each product before prescribing. An empirical approach to dosage together with a ‘go slow’ policy will result
in the smoothest fine tuning of management. Some of these insulins are available as injection devices, pen
injectors, disposable insulin pens, cartridges and vials.
Very quick acting. Should be given immediately before eating.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Problems with medication
Insulin and sulphonylureas can cause symptomatic hypoglycaemia and
weight gain. Patients and their families need to be aware of the risk
and be able to manage hypoglycaemia.
Hypoglycaemia may arise due to excessive insulin or sulphonylurea dose, deficient
carbohydrate intake or unaccustomed exercise. The cause needs to be identified and
the episode dealt with by reinforcing education, counselling the patient and perhaps
changing treatment.
Those who are taking insulin secretagogues or insulin, striving for ideal control,
the elderly, those on beta–blockers and those who live alone or have a high alcohol
intake are at special risk.
If the patient is conscious, initial treatment should be with oral
glucose or sucrose.
If the patient is unconscious give glucagon 1 mg subcutaneously,
intramuscularly or intravenously. (Glucagon is available through the
PBS as ‘Glucagen hypo kit’, suggest one at work and one at home).
arers and work colleagues of the at risk person with diabetes
should be familiar with the identification of hypoglycaemia and its
treatment including subcutaneous glucagon administration.
If the doctor is available and glucagon fails to restore
consciousness, administration of intravenous 50% glucose 20–30
ml should follow the glucagon.
It is important to follow resuscitation with ongoing monitoring and
carbohydrate input.
Poor control
The general practitioner is in a unique situation to be able to identify possible
factors which contribute to poor control. The general practitioner can explore
the patient’s understanding of diet, self-monitoring, treatment, as well as anxieties
about the condition. The general practitioner can also appreciate the dynamics
within the family and socio-economic stresses experienced by the patient.
Factors worth considering in poor control are:
• Inappropriate food intake
• Inappropriate insulin or oral hypoglycaemic usage
• Irregular metabolic demand, eg: exercise, shift work
• Intercurrent infection (especially urinary tract infection)
• Incorrect administration of medication/insulin
• Psychological stress.
6 51
New technology
Two new technologies which are used in the management of type 1 diabetes are now
being used in type 2 diabetes: insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring
systems (CGMS). Generally, these new technologies are prescribed and monitored
by specialist colleagues.
Insulin pumps infuse continuous (basal) subcutaneous insulin and extra boluses
as needed (eg: at meals or to correct high blood glucose values). Pumps offer the
flexibility of having different basal insulin doses at different times of the day and of
being able to quickly change insulin delivery. Subsidised insulin pump consumables
are available to Registrants of the National Diabetes Services Scheme who meet
additional criteria.
CGMS sample subcutaneous glucose levels approximately every 8 minutes and can
give continuous blood glucose levels over a 24 hour period for up to 6 consecutive
days. They can be useful in determining the appropriate doses and timing of
subcutaneous insulin. They may also have an important role for patients where they
are in a situation where hypoglycaemia must be avoided.
These two technologies can be combined and give information about blood glucose
and the capacity to flexibly deliver insulin. As yet they do not automatically adjust
insulin delivery according to the measured glucose values.
Surgical procedures
Management aims at reasonable glycaemic control before, during and after surgery.
People with diabetes should be seen several weeks before surgery for assessment of
diabetic control and anaesthetic suitability.
Minor or ‘day only’ procedures usually involve fasting from midnight (if held in the
morning) or a light breakfast and then fasting (if held in the afternoon). In either
case oral hypoglycaemic agents should be withheld.
For colonoscopy preparation, Colonlytely rather than Fleet should be used in
patients with renal impairment who may become severely hyperphosphataemic
with Fleet.
Appropriate written instructions should be given to the patient beforehand.
Major surgery causes considerable stress to the patient. Metformin should be
ceased before major surgery. Pre operative care is the same as for minor surgery,
but blood glucose levels should be monitored intra operatively (if a prolonged
procedure) and post operatively for several days. Insulin is often required post
operatively for people with diabetes.
Patients with diabetes treated with insulin will usually require peri operative insulin
and glucose infusions and close blood glucose monitoring.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
7 Sick days
Look for the underlying cause and treat.
Increase self-monitoring.
Ensure continuity of advice (especially after hours).
Usually an increase in medication is needed.
In any chronic condition it is inevitable that additional episodes of sickness
will occur from other causes. Sick day management needs to be part of normal
patient education.
Patients need to have a plan for sick days negotiated in advance. This plan should
• When to call the doctor
• How often to measure blood glucose and urinary ketones
• What medicines to take
• How to eat.
It is important that telephone access to a resource person is available. Telephone
advice may be sufficient when the patient is knowledgeable about diabetes but
if any doubt exists, a formal consultation needs to be arranged. The patient should
make contact if they have been unwell for a couple of days and not getting better,
if they have moderate (or more) ketones in their urine, if the blood glucose is rising
despite taking medication or if they are unsure of what to do for their care.
Intercurrent illnesses, infections (urinary tract infections, boils), trauma, acute
myocardial infarction and stroke will worsen control. In addition the use
of corticosteroids, beta agonists and diuretics may impair control.
The important aspect is to increase self-monitoring:
• Blood glucose measurement 3–4 times/day
• C
hecking blood or urine for ketones if blood glucose is over 15 mmol/L
(in type 1 diabetes).
Patients should try to maintain their normal meal plans if possible. Fluid intake (eg:
water) should be increased to prevent dehydration. Advise about alternative easy-todigest foods like soups if the patient cannot tolerate a normal diet. Some non-diet
soft drinks may provide essential carbohydrate in this situation.
Sick days 53
Type 2 diabetes controlled with diet alone
Worsening control may require the addition of sulphonylurea or insulin temporarily.
These patients are generally not ketosis prone but increased blood glucose levels will
impair the body’s immune mechanisms and make recovery slower. In addition they
may become dehydrated because of the osmotic diuresis.
Type 2 diabetes on hypoglycaemic agents
Worsening control may require the use of insulin temporarily. This may require
hospital admission. In patients with nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, consider
stopping metformin temporarily as metformin may aggravate these symptoms.
Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes on insulin
Patients should increase their morning intermediate or long acting insulin dose
by 10–20% and depending on further blood glucose levels, modify subsequent
doses of short acting insulin during the day. Those with type 1 diabetes need to test
their urine for ketones if blood glucose is high and they feel unwell.
Patients with gastrointestinal upset who are not eating, but who feel well and
continue their usual activities, may need to reduce their insulin (especially quick
acting insulin) to avoid hypoglycaemia.
In all cases the underlying cause should be identified and treated and the doses
of insulin and oral hypoglycaemic agents should be reviewed.
The Australian Diabetes Educators Association has developed guidelines and patient
information on sick day management. Patient information is also available from State
and Territory Diabetes Organisations.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
8 Hyperglycaemic emergencies
Look for an underlying cause – sepsis, myocardial infarct.
orrect extracellular fluid deficit and then slowly correct water
depletion and hyperglycaemia.
Monitor plasma glucose, sodium and potassium closely.
Transfer to a specialist unit if possible.
Hyperglycaemic emergencies have a significant mortality. They are preventable in
people known to have diabetes and their occurrence in this group signifies a major
breakdown in medical management.
It is essential that sick day protocols are understood by patients and their
carers and that a knowledgeable resource person be contactable at all times
(eg: the patient’s general practitioner or associate, endocrinologist, diabetes
resource centre).
Adequate early management of sick patients with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes
will prevent hyperglycaemic emergencies. Therefore many cases will be in patients
with previously undiagnosed diabetes.
Diabetic ketoacidosis
An absolute insulin deficiency results in:
• Increased hepatic glucose production
• Osmotic diuresis and dehydration, potassium and phosphate depletion
• I ncreased peripheral lipolysis. The liver, in the absence of insulin, converts fatty
acids into ketoacids which cause the acidosis.
Signs of diabetic ketoacidosis include dehydration, hyperventilation, ketotic breath,
disturbed conscious state and shock.
Also check for signs of some precipitating factors such as urinary tract infection,
myocardial infarction, pneumonia.
Wherever possible the patient should be managed in a specialist endocrine unit.
In remote rural practice this may not be possible. In this situation it is advisable
to contact the most appropriate diabetes resource person for advice while starting
treatment straight away.
Hyperglycaemic emergencies 55
The general outline of management is:
Initial investigations
Blood glucose
Arterial blood gases (venous in children)
Electrolytes and renal function
Urine glucose, ketones, microscopy and culture
Chest X-ray
Frequent observation
Clinical and biochemical status. For example:
½ hourly: BP, pulse, urine output
capillary blood glucose
2 hourly: electrolytes especially potassium
Fluids and electrolytes
Most patients have a deficit of several litres (40 to 80 ml/kg). Calculate deficit plus
continuing requirements for the next 24 hours and give about ⅓ of this in the first
5–6 hours. Normal (0.9%) saline is suitable.
As long as the plasma potassium is not very high (eg: above 6 mmol/L) start
replacement (eg: ½–2 g, 6–26 mmol per hour) and measure levels and adjust the
dose at least 2 hourly.
An intravenous bolus of 0.15 units/kg neutral insulin.
An infusion of neutral insulin 100 units/litre saline is commenced.
Run 100 mls through the line before connecting to the patient to saturate insulin
binding to the giving set. If a syringe pump is available add 50 units of neutral
insulin to 50 ml of saline and flush the giving set. Commence the infusion at 0.05
to 0.15 units per kg per hour and adjust the dose depending on glycaemia (usual
rates are 0.5–6 units per hour for a 70 kg adult).
When blood glucose levels fall below 15 mmol/L set up a 5% dextrose infusion
(50–100 ml per hour) and make appropriate adjustments to other i/v fluids.
Diabetic ketoacidosis can be complicated by severe infection, arterial thrombosis,
profound shock and lactic acidosis and cerebral oedema. Once treatment is
initiated (unless the acidosis is mild and response rapid) transfer the patient to a
specialist unit.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Hyperosmolar non-ketotic coma
In type 2 diabetes insulin deficiency is not absolute. Hyperglycaemia and
osmotic diuresis occur but lipolysis and ketosis are not major features. Extreme
hyperglycaemia develops because of increased hepatic glucose production and
decreased peripheral glucose utilisation and because of the fluid losses caused by
the osmotic diuresis. Although there is extracellular fluid and sodium depletion
plasma sodium levels may be increased because of the larger depletion in total body
water. The depletion of the total body water leads to the hyperosmolality of body
fluids reflected by the extreme hyperglycaemia and increased plasma sodium. This
hyperosmolar state affects consciousness and may cause coma. Hence the name
hyperosmolar non-ketotic coma.
The priority is to correct extracellular fluid volume and then slowly correct
the hyperglycaemia (with insulin) and water deficit (with low sodium fluids
eg: 5% dextrose or 4% dextrose and ¹⁄₅ normal saline). Rapid correction of the
hyperosmolar state is dangerous. Monitor extracellular fluid status and plasma
glucose and plasma sodium.
Blood glucose meters will not register very high glucose levels so access to a
laboratory is necessary to monitor the correction of hyperglycaemia as well as to
monitor sodium and potassium levels.
Signs of hyperosmolar coma include severe dehydration, disturbed consciousness,
coma and shock. Also check for signs of some precipitating factors such as urinary
tract infection, pneumonia, myocardial infarction or stroke.
Wherever possible the patient should be managed in a specialist endocrine unit.
In remote rural practice this may not be possible. In this situation it is advisable
to contact the most appropriate diabetes resource person for advice whilst starting
treatment straight away.
The general outline of management is:
Initial investigations
Blood glucose
Electrolytes and renal function
Urine glucose, ketones, microscopy and culture
Chest X-ray
Hyperglycaemic emergencies
Hyperglycaemic emergencies 57
Frequent observation
Clinical and biochemical status. For example:
½ hourly: BP, pulse, urine output
Hourly: capillary blood glucose (when registering on the meter)
2 hourly: electrolytes especially sodium and potassium
Fluids and electrolytes
Most patients have a deficit of many litres (60 to 100 ml/kg). Initially normal
(0.9%) saline is suitable to replete the extracellular volume (eg: 3–5 litres over 5–6
hours). Thereafter fluid replacement should be guided by:
• Signs of extracellular volume – to guide administration of normal saline
• Measures of a body osmolality (measured or roughly calculated: 2 x Na + G)
to guide administration of low sodium fluids.
As long as the plasma potassium is not very high (eg: above 5 mmol/L) start
replacement (0.5–1 gram, 6–13 mmol/L per hour), measure levels and adjust the
dose at least 2 hourly.
An intravenous bolus of 0.15 units/kg neutral insulin.
An infusion of neutral insulin 100 units/litre saline is commenced. Run 100 mls
through the line before connecting to the patient to saturate insulin binding to the
giving set. If a syringe pump is available add 50 units of neutral insulin to 50 ml of
saline and flush the giving set. Commence the infusion at 0.05 to 0.15 units per kg
per hour and adjust the dose depending on glycaemia (usual rates are 0.5–2 units
per hour for a 70 kg adult).
When blood glucose levels fall below 15 mmol/L set up a 5% dextrose infusion
(50–100 ml per hour) and make appropriate adjustments to other i/v fluids.
Hyperosmolar coma can be complicated by severe infection, arterial thrombosis,
profound shock and lactic acidosis and cerebral oedema. Once treatment is initiated
(unless the hyperglycaemia is mild and response rapid) transfer the patient to a
specialist unit.
Many hospitals now have an Indigenous Hospital Liaison Officer or equivalent.
Contacting that person may assist in accessing acute hospital care for
Indigenous patients.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
9 Factors
complicating management
These may occur independently from the diabetes itself eg: intercurrent illness or
may result from the diabetic process eg: macrovascular disease or microvascular
disease with nephropathy, retinopathy and neuropathy. If one or more macro or
microvascular complication is detected, it is likely other macro or microvascular
complications are also present and it is important to check for them.
Risk factors
Diabetes is an independent risk factor for both macro and microvascular disease.
Improved glycaemic control has been shown to reduce long term microvascular
complications. Control of hypertension also reduces microvascular complications.
Reduction in macrovascular complications may depend on glycaemic control
(shown for metformin) but clearly depends on modification of other risk factors
such as smoking, hypertension and dyslipidaemia.
Calculation of absolute risk will identify those people where especially active
intervention and risk factor monitoring are indicated (absolute 10 year CVD risk
>15%). The National Heart Foundation website provides a simple assessment tool
Macrovascular disease
rterial disease is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in
people with diabetes.
There is a 2–6 fold excess compared with the non-diabetic population.
isk factor management is essential – especially smoking, blood
pressure, lipids and glycaemia.
nless there are contraindications, prophylactic aspirin
(75–325 mg/d) should be considered.
Diabetes is a major risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis of the major
vessels especially coronary and aorto-ilio-femoral systems. These in turn are the
major cause of premature death in people with type 2 diabetes. It should be
remembered that the incidence of cardiovascular disease is especially increased in
women with diabetes.
Management of other risk factors eg: hypertension, dyslipidaemia and smoking will
reduce the risk of developing macrovascular disease.
Factors complicating management 59
Atypical presentations occur most commonly in the elderly and in women with
diabetes, but cardiovascular disease is high in the differential diagnosis in any person
with diabetes presenting with a medical problem.
The recent National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance notes that aspirin or
other anti-platelet therapy is not routinely recommended for primary prevention of
cardiovascular disease and that if aspirin is used any effect on cardiovascular events
needs to be balanced against the potential for harm. Note that low dose aspirin
does not interfere with hypoglycaemic agents and is not contraindicated in most
forms of retinopathy.
Among the lifestyle related factors, smoking makes the largest contribution to the
absolute risk of macrovascular complications for people with diabetes. The added
risk from smoking is greater than in people without diabetes.
There is evidence that minimal interventions in the general practice setting can
improve cessation rates. The diagnosis of diabetes is often a crisis for people and
offers an opportunity to bring about cessation of smoking.
The general practitioner can assist people to quit in the following ways:
• Ask about and document smoking habits
• Assess stage of readiness and nicotine dependence
• Advise to quit and set a date
• A
ssist with information about the QUIT program, nicotine replacement and
other pharmacologic therapy
• Arrange follow up.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ SNAP (Smoking, Nutrition,
Alcohol and Physical activity) guide outlines a general practitioner-friendly smoking
cessation intervention. The QUIT website is also useful (see Internet Resources inside
back page).
Smoking is more prevalent among Indigenous Australians than the general
population. Indigenous Australian adults over 18 years (in every age group)
are twice as likely to be current smokers than non-Indigenous (51% versus
24% respectively).
Diabetes Management in General Practice
lood pressure control reduces macro and microvascular
Non pharmacological measures should be tried first.
referred initial pharmacological agents are ACE inhibitors or
Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists (ARAs) for most patients.
To achieve BP targets, combination therapy is often required.
The presence of hypertension in the person with diabetes is an independent
contributory risk factor for:
• Macrovascular disease: coronary, cerebral and peripheral
• Retinopathy
• Nephropathy.
Early detection, active treatment and frequent review are essential if morbidity
is to be reduced. The general practitioner should aim for lower blood pressure levels
in people with diabetes because their blood vessels (both macro and micro) are more
susceptible to hypertensive damage (target ≤130/80 mmHg).
• Non-pharmacological treatment, especially maintenance of ideal weight, regular
exercise and minimisation of salt and alcohol in the diet, should be emphasised.
• Based on evidence of their effects on renal function, ACE inhibitors and
ARAs are preferred drugs for the control of blood pressure in people
with diabetes. ACE inhibitors and ARAs have a beneficial effect on renal and
cardiovascular function.
• ARAs have a role for people with micro or macro albuminuria.
• Both lying and standing blood pressure must be assessed.
• Checking the blood pressure before the morning dose assesses whether blood
pressure control is maintained at trough levels of medication.
Reliable ambulatory blood pressure monitors are available and self-monitoring
by patients can provide useful information on blood pressure profiles over the
24-hour period. Such monitoring should be considered in those with suspected ‘white
coat’ hypertension or who are resistant to therapy.
People with diabetes with autonomic neuropathy are particularly prone
to orthostatic hypotension. It may be preferable to accept some hypertension rather
than have the person suffer (or fall) with postural hypotension.
Factors complicating management 61
Getting to target BP (≤ 130/80)*
Step 1: Healthy eating, physical activity, weight control
Step 2: ACE/ARA or CCB or low dose diuretic
Step 3: Add second agent from different pharmacological class
Step 4: Add third agent from different pharmacological class
Step 5: Consider specialist advice.
*Note that the target BP for those with proteinuria >1g/day is ≤ 130/80 (not as before: < 125/75)
ACE inhibitors/ARAs
Produce good control with generally no postural symptoms and no alteration in lipid
profile or glucose tolerance. ACE inhibitors are one of the first line medications in the
treatment of moderate to severe hypertension in patients with diabetes.
ACE inhibitors and ARAs can both reduce renal function in patients with renal
arterial stenosis or diffuse renovascular disease and it is wise to check plasma
potassium and creatinine approximately one week after starting treatment.
ACE inhibitors/ARAs should not be prescribed together since there is no extra
benefit but more side effects.
Thiazide diuretics are established agents with a place in early management
of mild hypertension. Low doses (eg: hydrochlorothiazide 12.5 mg/d or indapamide
1.25/2.5 mg/d) have few metabolic side effects.
Calcium antagonists
Have no adverse effects on glucose tolerance or lipid profile.
Diltiazem and verapamil affect cardiac output and the dihydropyridines
(eg: amlodipine) reduce peripheral resistance. Side effects include constipation.
The vasodilating dihydropyridines can cause troublesome flushing, peripheral
oedema, tachycardia and worsening of angina. Long acting or sustained release
preparations are preferred.
May mask symptoms of hypoglycaemia and cause hyperglycaemia. They may also
adversely affect the lipid profile, reducing HDL–C and increasing
triglycerides. Cardioselective beta-blockers are preferable eg: atenolol, metoprolol.
Can cause orthostatic hypotension but otherwise is a safe vasodilator in people
with diabetes. It is not recommended in the elderly or patients with autonomic
symptoms or cardiac failure.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Centrally acting agents
Occasionally a centrally acting sympatholytic (eg: alphamethyldopa, clonidine or
moxonidene) is useful where beta-blockers cause problems or are contraindicated.
However depression, postural hypotension and erectile dysfunction are common
side effects.
The Indigenous population has a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular
(CV) disease and an earlier age of onset than the general Australian
population. Ischaemic heart disease (also known as coronary heart disease) is
a major contributor to mortality and morbidity in this population. There is
also evidence that hypertension is more common, is present from a young age,
and often unrecognised in the Indigenous population.
Management of dyslipidaemia is important.
Non pharmacological measures should be tried first.
referred agents are HMGCoA reductase inhibitors, ezetimibe and
resins for hypercholesterolaemia and fibrates for
Dyslipidaemia is common in patients with diabetes and is an independent risk
factor for the macrovascular complications of diabetes. It is therefore important to
identify and treat dyslipidaemia.
Often poor control with persistent hyperglycaemia results in hypertriglyceridaemia.
The triglyceride level will often drop to acceptable levels when adequate control of
weight, diet and glycaemia is achieved. Cholesterol levels will often fall with weight
reduction and metabolic control of diabetes. Fish oils (Ω–3 polyunsaturated oils)
in doses of 5 g/day lower triglyceride levels but high doses (>3 g/d) can worsen
glycaemic control and increase haemorrhagic risk.
The dietary management of hypercholesterolaemia is similar to that of diabetes. The
diet should be low in cholesterol, saturated, trans and total fat. However, special
emphasis should be put on reducing the intake of total, saturated and trans fats
in patients with diabetes and hypercholesterolaemia.
If dietary measures fail after 3–6 months, pharmacological treatment should be
instituted. The usual first line medications for isolated hypercholesterolaemia
are HMGCoA reductase inhibitors (statins). Adherence is good and statins are
extremely effective. Bile acid sequestrant resins (cholestyramine or colestipol) are
also reasonable choices for isolated hypercholesterolaemia because of their proven
long term safety. Ezetemibe (10 mg, available on PBS streamlined authority script
Factors complicating management 63
for eligible patients) is a once daily oral medication that also reduces cholesterol
absorption. Combining HMGCoA reductase inhibitors and agents reducing
cholesterol absorption can be very effective. As the resins may impair absorption
of oral hypoglycaemic agents, care should be exercised to separate the time at
which the two classes of medication are taken by at least one and a half hours.
A pharmaceutical preparation of W3 fatty acids is TGA approved for secondary
prevention in type 2 diabetes but is not subsidised by the PBS.
Treatment when both cholesterol and triglycerides are raised should
be a statin and/or a fibrate (fenofibrate or gemfibrozil) first depending
on the lipid subfractions levels. Combining a fibrate and a statin
can cause muscle damage (less so with fenofibrate than gemfibrozil) and
should only be considered after specialist consultation. Combining
a fibrate with ezetimibe (contraindicated in patients with gall bladder disease) or a
resin might be an alternative.
There is some evidence that there is a higher rate of dyslipidaemia in the
Indigenous population than in the general Australian population. It is
important to note that the PBS guidelines include a lowered threshold for
prescription of hypolipidaemic medications to Indigenous people with
diabetes. Aboriginality is itself a recognised risk factor for CVD, decreasing
the thresholds for initiating medical management of other risk factors, such
as hypertension and hyperlipidaemia.
PBS guidelines for prescribing lipid lowering drugs in individuals
with diabetes
(Private scripts can be provided for patients who do not meet the PBS criteria)
Patient group
Diabetes in individuals ≥60 years old
Diabetes with microalbuminuria
Lipid criteria (fasting plasma levels)
Treat at any cholesterol level
Diabetes in Indigenous individuals
Diabetes not otherwise included
Treat if TC* >5.5 mmol/L
* TC = Total cholesterol
Nicotinic acid can be added to either schedule but referral may be indicated if the above
therapies are not successful. Nicotinic acid can increase glucose intolerance.
Targets recommended by the National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance for
people with diabetes but no history of cardiovascular disease are:
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Total cholesterol
<4.0 mmol/L
>1.0 mmol/L
<2.0 mmol/L
<2.5 mmol/L
<2.0 mmol/L
More active treatment may be indicated in people with existing coronary heart
Renal damage
icroalbuminuria gives early warning of renal damage –
check at annual review.
Monitor plasma creatinine to estimate changes in GFR.
icroalbuminuria is an indicator of high cardiovascular risk. Check
other risk factors.
Control of blood glucose and blood pressure reduces renal damage.
Watch for asymptomatic urinary tract infections.
Proteinuria is the hallmark of diabetic nephropathy. The appearance of proteinuria
during the routine review of patients with diabetes is common. The time
of onset of proteinuria and the rate of increase is variable. However, once clinical
proteinuria occurs (dip stick positive, >500 mg/L) progressive renal damage
is likely. The magnitude of proteinuria (ie: all proteins in the urine) is more
than albuminuria (ie: the albumin component). Thus 500 mg/L of proteinuria
is roughly equivalent to 300 mg/L of albuminuria.
Initially intermittent low grade proteinuria occurs (microalbuminuria,
20–200 µg/min). At this stage control of blood pressure and glycaemia may stabilise
renal function.
Monitor serum/plasma creatinine to estimate glomerular filtration rate (GFR) at least
every twelve months since other causes of renal impairment are common in diabetes.
Regular checks of creatinine identify changes in renal function and prompt review. The
national adoption of eGFR makes GFR calculation simpler but eGFR is not valid at
extremes of body habitus or age and should be interpreted accordingly. Laboratories are
encouraged to report estimated GFR ml/min/1.73 m2 body surface area (BSA) – the
eGFR. Remember that medication doses should be adjusted according to the total
GFR, not GFR adjusted for BSA.
The rate of decline in renal function is accelerated by hypertension. BP control is
important to slow progression of renal damage.
Factors complicating management 65
The effect of glycaemic control on established renal damage is not clear. However,
ideal glycaemic control in patients without renal damage and in those with
microalbuminuria delays the onset or progression of renal damage.
The significance of proteinuria (macroalbuminuria) is as follows:
• Ten year survival is poor once persistent significant proteinuria is present
(ie: 2+ or more).
• Proteinuria is a CV risk factor independently from decreased GFR.
• Retinopathy will be present. The patient should be reviewed for retinal problems
and have treatment initiated (eg: photocoagulation) if necessary.
• Urine should be regularly screened for infection, a common exacerbating factor
in diabetic nephropathy.
• Metformin should not be used in patients with diabetic
nephropathy if calculated total GFR is <30 ml/min because of the risk
of metformin accumulation and lactic acidosis.
• ACE inhibitors have been shown to slow progression of microalbuminuria and
ARAs have been shown to slow progression of micro and macro albuminuria
to clinical events.
• 24 hour urine protein excretion should be used to monitor progress and not first
voided or timed overnight collections which are used to assess microalbuminuria.
• Referral to a nephrologist or physician experienced in treating renal disease
should be considered.
Albumin creatinine ratio (mg/mmol)
Specimen: first voided morning urine
Urinary albumin excretion (µg/min)
Specimen: timed overnight urine collection
If microalbuminuria is established then the use of an ARA or ACE inhibitor should
be considered even in the absence of hypertension.
The STENO-2 study in patients with type 2 diabetes and microalbuminuria
showed that more active intervention and improved management of risk
Diabetes Management in General Practice
factors reduced the incidence of cardiovascular events and renal failure
by approximately 50%.
Radiographic contrast media and other nephrotoxic agents may precipitate a
sudden deterioration in renal function (see page 72). Tetracyclines may also
precipitate sudden deterioration.
The Indigenous population has a much higher risk of developing chronic renal
disease and end stage renal failure than the general Australian population. In
particular, the rising prevalence of diabetes in Indigenous people is associated
with increased early onset end stage renal disease.
Eye damage
Regular eye review (at least every two years) to detect and
prevent complications.
Patients with diabetes are subject to an increased risk of developing several
eye complications. For children with onset of diabetes before puberty, eye screening
should commence at puberty or earlier in some circumstances. All other patients should
be referred to an ophthalmologist or optometrist at the time of diagnosis. Thereafter,
patients should be reviewed at least second yearly and more frequently if problems exist.
Refractive errors occur as the lens shape alters with changes in blood glucose
concentrations. Blurred vision due purely to refractive error corrects with the
pinhole test. Correction of refractive errors should be postponed until blood glucose
levels are stabilised.
Cataracts occur prematurely in people with diabetes. Patients present with blurred
vision and glare intolerance and may find night vision a particular problem.
Interpretation of colours becomes more difficult. Clinically the light reflex is
reduced and the fundus may be difficult to see. Treatment is surgical when reduced
acuity is affecting lifestyle.
Retinopathy occurs as a result of microvascular disease of the retina. Loss of acuity
not corrected with pinhole testing may be due to retinopathy. Changes seen are:
• Dot and blot haemorrhages
• Soft and hard exudates
• Proliferative blood vessel formation.
Maculopathy is difficult to see ophthalmoscopically but is the most common cause
of visual loss in people with diabetes.
Assessment is by direct ophthalmoscopy (with dilated pupils), retinal photography
and fluorescein angiography depending on the state of the patient’s fundi. General
practitioners can monitor patients for diabetic eye disease if they are confident
of their technique and examine the eyes through dilated pupils. Initial and then
Factors complicating management 67
intermittent referral to an ophthalmologist or optometrist is still recommended.
Early diagnosis of retinopathy is essential as early use of laser photocoagulation
may delay and prevent visual loss. This early detection can only be achieved by a
program of routine screening. Sudden loss of vision may be due to:
• Central retinal artery occlusion
• Retinal detachment
• Vitreous haemorrhage.
Urgent contact with an ophthalmologist is indicated.
The Indigenous population has a higher risk of developing cataract than the
general Australian population.
Foot problems
• Patients need to know and practise routine foot care.
• Check six monthly for factors predisposing to problems: reduced
circulation or sensation, abnormal foot structure, poor hygiene,
footcare, footwear.
• High risk patients especially those with a past history of foot ulcer
should be reviewed by a podiatrist.
Foot problems result in a large proportion of all amputations and of hospital
bed days for diabetes patients. Many problems can be prevented by an organised
program of education and supervision.
Prevention is the most important aspect of management of the patient’s feet.
The patient with a past history of foot ulcer is at high risk of a further ulcer on
the previously affected limb. The other limb is also at high risk. Early referral
to a podiatrist to assess potential abnormal architecture and regular review of
neuropathy, vascular disease or deformity are essential.
The foot of a person with diabetes is at risk of damage due to a combination
of small and large vessel disease, nerve damage and mechanical instabilities in the
foot. Tissue is more susceptible to injury and infection and heals more slowly.
A podiatrist may be useful to assess foot architecture at an early stage so that
early preventive treatment can be implemented. If vascular disease exists, surgical
intervention on the foot can result in poor healing, ulceration and, at worst,
gangrene. Such procedures should be carried out by professionals used to working
with people with diabetes.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
The most common sites of ulceration are on the plantar surfaces under the
metatarsal heads. Abnormal shearing forces initially cause a bruise under the
epidermis. Infection then intervenes, the overlying skin or callus becomes necrotic,
sloughs and reveals the ulcer. Complications include cellulitis, thrombotic arterial
occlusion and gangrene that may result in amputation.
If the ulcer is superficial, management needs to aim to keep the ulcer moist and
to minimise any pressure that might perpetuate the ulcer. If the ulcer is deep,
or if cellulitis is present, hospitalisation and bed rest are necessary. Key points
of management include:
• S pecialist endocrine and surgical referral if neuropathy and/or vascular
compromise are present
• Swabs for culture (including anaerobic) and sensitivity
• X-ray to determine boney involvement
• Amoxycillin/potassium clavulanate or metronidazole plus cephalexin
(Therapeutic Guidelines – Antibiotic 2010).
• Urgent drainage of pus
• Post-operative irrigation of wound
• Adequate diabetes control
• Education and reassessment of footwear.
If the ulcer is not infected and is superficial, care can be ambulatory.
• T
he general practitioner or a podiatrist should remove excess callus from around
the ulcer to facilitate drainage
• P
atients should be encouraged to keep pressure off the lesion as much as possible
to encourage healing
• Orthotic aids may redistribute weight bearing forces away from the ulcer site
• A contact cast and sometimes orthopaedic intervention for disorganised tarsal
joints can help to heal indolent diabetic ulcers.
Neuropathic joint damage
The painful, red, hot, swollen foot is not always infected. It is important to
differentiate between infection and Charcot’s arthropathy as the treatment is very
different. Damage can occur as a result of minor trauma. Initial x-ray can be normal
but serial x-rays will show fracture, new bone formation and joint disorganisation.
The metatarsal joints are most commonly affected but the ankle and the metatarsotarsal joints can also be affected.
An early bone scan will confirm the diagnosis. Differentiation from osteomyelitis
or septic arthritis can usually be made by normal white cell count and absence
Factors complicating management 69
of fever. Treatment is with non-weight bearing crutches, appliances fitted by
a podiatrist to reduce further damage and possibly a below knee cast until
inflammation has subsided.
The Ischaemic foot
In people with diabetes the disease is usually bilateral and symmetrical.
Clinically leg ischaemia presents as:
• Claudication
• Ulceration
• Rest pain
• Gangrene.
Patients with claudication should be encouraged to exercise since this may increase
the claudication distance.
Surgical treatment is indicated if there is severe claudication, intractable rest pain
or ulceration not responding to medical treatment.
Surgical treatment may consist of:
• Sympathectomy: can occasionally help with rest pain but may not improve
circulation sufficiently for ulcer healing
• Arterial reconstruction if there is a correctable obstruction
• Major amputation: for rampant infection, extensive tissue destruction or rest
pain not responsive to arterial reconstruction.
Peripheral neuropathy complicating diabetes most commonly affects the sensory
and motor nerves of the lower limbs. Early clinical finding include paraesthesia
(sometimes painful), decreased pain and touch sensation and impaired deep tendon
reflexes. Reduced proprioception occurs later.
Peripheral neuropathy affects sensory, motor and autonomic nerves.
Foot care is especially important in patients with neuropathy.
Check reflexes and sensation at annual review.
Peripheral nerve function should be checked at least yearly in the person with
The major significance of abnormal peripheral nerve function is its contribution
to foot problems. Reduced pain sensation delays attention to trouble spots and
significant tissue damage occurs before the patient’s attention is aroused. In
addition, poor proprioception and muscle atrophy results in abnormal stresses on
the foot and joints and in increased propensity for soft tissue and joint damage.
Patients should understand the importance of appropriate footwear and foot care, establish
Diabetes Management in General Practice
a regular self-monitoring schedule (including visual checks) and have an action plan to
respond to early problems (eg: skin breakdown).
The pain of peripheral neuropathy can be difficult to manage. Antidepressants,
anti-epileptics and non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may help. Local
measures may help: desensitisation with capsaicin cream (Zostrix HP) coverage with
Opsite and avoidance of pressure from bedclothes at night.
The appearance of peripheral neuropathy should prompt review and consideration
of causes other than diabetes. Discomfort may be an incentive to improve metabolic
control. Regular podiatric review needs to be considered. Alcohol consumption
needs to be assessed and reduced or stopped if excessive.
Motor neuropathy sometimes occurs with muscle wasting, weakness and
abnormalities of gait. This can contribute to foot problems by altering the
biomechanics of the ankle and foot.
Autonomic neuropathy may result in:
• Orthostatic hypotension
• Impaired gastric emptying
• Diarrhoea
• Delayed/incomplete bladder emptying
• Erectile dysfunction and retrograde ejaculation in males
• Reduced vaginal lubrication with arousal in women
• Loss of cardiac pain, ‘silent’ ischaemia or infarction
• Sudden, unexpected cardio-respiratory arrest especially under anaesthetic
or treatment with respiratory depressant medications
• Difficulty recognising hypoglycaemia.
Management of people with diabetes with these problems should include a team
approach involving relevant specialist medical and allied health professionals.
Problems with medications
Review medication adherence as part of the annual cycle of care.
olypharmacy is common and drug interactions can be
dangerous. Consider a Home Medicines Review.
Non-adherence is common and may be a barrier to achieving treatment targets.
Consider simplifying treatment schedules and limiting the number of medications and
medication taking occasions. The RACGP guide Putting Prevention into Practice also
provides some strategies to address patient adherence on pages 24–26. The full reference
for the guide is available at http://www.racgp.org.au/guidelines/greenbook.
Factors complicating management 71
Important drug interactions and side effects
People with diabetes will often be taking many hypoglycaemic medications and will
require further prescription and non-prescription agents. Some drug interactions are
dangerous and special care is required in older patients and those with autonomic
neuropathy. In addition to pharmacological knowledge, pharmacists have skills in patient
care and dosage aids which enhance patient compliance and understanding. Assessment
of the person’s understanding of their medicines and devices, and how well these are being
used, can be undertaken in a Home Medicines Review.
Hypoglycaemia (especially glibenclamide and glimepiride in older patients and
those with autonomic neuropathy)
• affecting sulphonylurea pharmacokinetics: sulphonamides, cimetidine, azole
antifungal agents, NSAIDs, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine
• causing hypoglycaemia or reducing response: alcohol, beta-blockers, ACE
inhibitors, high dose salicylates, perhexiline
Hypotension (especially in older patients and those with autonomic neuropathy)
• anti-depressants, nitrates, phosphodiesterase inhibitors
Renal impairment
• imaging procedures: standard (non-low ionic) radiocontrast agents or
causing dehydration
• non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), ACE inhibitors, ARAs
and diuretics
• colonic preparation: dehydration, Fleet (hyperphosphataemia)
• ACE inhibitors, ARAs, NSAIDs, potassium sparing diuretics,
potassium supplements, non-selective beta-blockers
• statin and/or fibrates, medications affecting statin clearance: diltiazem,
clarithromycin, erythromycin, azole anti fungals, fluvoxamine,
fluoxetine, grapefruit juice
Refer also to page 42 for glycaemic effects of non-diabetes medications.
Complementary medicines
Predictable positive and negative interactions between complementary medicines
and prescribed diabetes medications may be variable, as there is little formal
assessment of many of these products.
Recognised issues from observations include:
Diabetes Management in General Practice
•Hypoglycaemic effect: From fenugreek, gymnema, bitter melon, chromium,
zinc. Ginseng has at least four in-vivo clinical trials supporting defined
hypoglycaemic effects.
•Hypertension: Agents such as liquorice may cause raised blood pressure in
people with diabetes with cardiac and/or renal dysfunction plus deleterious
effects of decreasing serum potassium.
•Hypotension: In the presence of renal impairment and hypertensive
management, the following commonly used agents appear to have case reports
of concern leading to or aggravating hypotension: andrographis, astragalus,
bilberry, cat’s claw, CoQ 10, dan shen, dang gui, ginkgo.
• H
yperlipidaemia: Omega-3 fish oil supplementation may have positive mortality
benefits in patients at high risk of cardiac mortality including type 2 diabetes.
•Hypertriglyceridaemia: Though some benefit from niacin has been shown, liver
enzyme abnormalities and hyperglycaemic effects may occur at effective dose.
NPS MedicineWise has compiled a guide to medicines information resources
relevant to Australian health professionals. This list is available at www.nps.org.
au/medicines_information_guide. Interactions can be checked by searching these
resources, however the NPS does not warrant their completeness or accuracy.
Factors complicating management 73
10 Diabetes and reproductive
Glycaemic control is important before and during pregnancy.
Specialist endocrine and obstetric care is indicated.
Women with diabetes are more prone to the complications of pregnancy.
In addition, pregnancy may accelerate complications of diabetes. There are also
increased risks to the well being of the newborn. There is a risk of congenital
abnormalities and first trimester spontaneous abortions are increased, probably due
to inadequate metabolic control during the first eight to ten weeks of pregnancy. It
is therefore important to:
• ensure reliable contraception before pregnancy
• ensure good metabolic control before becoming pregnant and throughout all
stages of pregnancy.
Once pregnancy is diagnosed in a woman with diabetes, she should be managed,
if possible, by an obstetrician together with a physician specialising in diabetes.
Many of the complications in the later stage of pregnancy can be minimised
by ideal metabolic control, close obstetric monitoring and prompt intervention.
Proliferative retinopathy may be worsened in pregnancy and if present, should
be treated beforehand. Stable background retinopathy is not a contraindication
to pregnancy. Similarly diabetic nephropathy can deteriorate in pregnancy and there is
a high incidence of pregnancy induced hypertension and pyelonephritis. In general the
presence of complications of diabetes is not an indication for termination of pregnancy.
The patient must be counselled with respect to risks, treatment options and prognosis.
A few brief points:
• The time when the patient requests contraception is appropriate for discussion
of long term family planning. When pregnancy is planned, discuss the need for
metabolic control, the use of folate and iodine supplements and the outlook for
the pregnancy.
• In general, oral hypoglycaemic agents are not used during pregnancy because
of potential ill effects on the fetus. If a woman on an oral agent is trying
to become pregnant she needs to consider changing to insulin.
• Encourage couples to have their children early when the likelihood of
complications from diabetes is less.
• When pregnancy is being considered, check the degree of control and
for retinopathy or nephropathy. A review by a specialist physician and
ophthalmologist is usually helpful.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
• T
he outlook for pregnancies in patients with glycaemic control and
managed in tertiary institutions is very good.
Indigenous women are at high risk of having or developing diabetes during
pregnancy. Ideally they would check that their blood glucose level is normal
before stopping contraception and have early screening for gestational
10.2 Gestational diabetes
All pregnant women should be screened for GDM at between 26 and 28
weeks gestation with a non-fasting glucose challenge test (GCT). This can
be done using a 50 g load with a plasma glucose taken 1 hour after the
load. Women whose levels are ≥7.8 mmol/L should have a formal (fasting)
75 g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). A 75 g load can be used for
the GCT in which case the threshold for further testing is 8.0 mmol/L. In
women at high risk it is reasonable to skip the GCT and proceed straight
to the OGTT. The diagnosis of GDM is made on the basis of a 75 g OGTT,
where the fasting level is ≥5.5 mmol/L, or 2 hour result ≥8.0 mmol/L.
Pregnancy is diabetogenic in those with a genetic predisposition. Routine screening does
not obviate the need for earlier testing if clinically indicated (eg: glycosuria at 12 weeks
gestation, family history, previous gestational diabetes, poor obstetric history).
Women whose OGTT confirms gestational diabetes or frank diabetes should be
managed by an obstetrician and physician specialising in this condition, wherever
possible. The follow-up of these women is important. A post partum OGTT will
usually show reversion to a normal state. However, up to 50% of women who
have had gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 25 years and the
prevalence steadily increases with time.
All women with gestational diabetes should be tested for persistent diabetes with a
75 g OGTT 6–8 weeks after delivery. As long as further pregnancies are possible,
testing for diabetes with an OGTT is recommended every 1–2 years. If pregnant
again, it is prudent to screen for diabetes at booking-in (ideally with a OGTT), and
if this is normal, to have a further OGTT at 26–28 weeks. If further pregnancies
are not possible, repeat testing should occur at least every 3 years. More frequent
re-testing depends on the clinical circumstances (eg: ethnicity, insulin treatment in
pregnancy, recurrent episodes of gestational diabetes).
Women who have had gestational diabetes should be encouraged to exercise regularly and
maintain an optimal weight as this may reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes and reproductive health 75
Indigenous women are a high risk group and should be tested for gestational
diabetes (or pre-existing diabetes) at booking-in as well as 26–28 weeks. Those
women who develop gestational diabetes should be offered tests for diabetes at
6–8 weeks post-partum and as well as 1–2 yearly thereafter.
The combined oral contraceptive pill is usually the best option.
In women of reproductive age with type 2 diabetes, it is important to take
a menstrual history as some of these women may also have polycystic ovarian
syndrome. Treatment with metformin or a glitazone for their diabetes may restore
the menstrual cycle and fertility.
Although there are theoretical arguments against the use of the combined oral
contraceptive in patients with diabetes (eg: oestrogen may cause hyperglycaemia)
overall reliability and safety make it a good choice.
The progesterone-only pill has theoretical advantages, but is less reliable and
can be associated with troublesome spotting intermenstrually. The etonogestrel
implant provides greater reliability with 3 years of continuous contraception. As
with other progesterone only contraceptives, irregular bleeding can occur. Depot
medroxyprogesterone acetate may increase weight and glucose levels but is a reliable
and safe form of contraception.
An intra-uterine device (IUD) may be considered in women at ‘low risk’ for
complications (ie: parous, older women with a stable single partner relationship).
The risk of infection is higher in women with diabetes, especially if control
is not optimal.
Barrier methods may be effective, but the risk of pregnancy is greater than with the
above methods.
Permanent sterilisation is an attractive option if no (or no more) children
are wanted. This is especially so in a woman with diabetes given the risks
of continuing reversible contraception and the risks of pregnancy itself.
10.4 Hormone replacement therapy
There are no data supporting the use of hormone replacement therapy
for primary prevention in postmenopausal women with diabetes.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT; also known as hormone therapy) should not
be recommended to women with diabetes for primary or secondary prevention of
Diabetes Management in General Practice
ischaemic heart disease. Cardiovascular event rates may be increased and there is
a significantly increased risk of thrombo-embolic events. There are currently no
data to support the use of HRT in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in
women with diabetes.
10.5 Sexual problems
Erectile problems occur in up to 50% of men with diabetes.
Inquire at annual review.
Men with diabetes may suffer from erectile dysfunction. This may occur acutely
during periods of high blood glucose or chronically.
It is important to inquire about this in the annual screening because the prevalence
in men over 40 years old with diabetes may be as high as 50%.
Failure to achieve erection may be due to psychological causes, macrovascular
disease or pelvic autonomic neuropathy. An organic cause is more likely when there
are other macro or microvascular complications.
It is important to differentiate psychogenic from organic erectile dysfunction.
Usually inquiring about spontaneous erections while asleep or in non-sexual
situations will help. Psychogenic erectile dysfunction requires counselling
and behavioural therapy. Patients with organic erectile dysfunction should
be counselled supportively. Phosphodiesterase inhibitors (sildenafil –
Viagra; tadalafil – Cialis; vardenafil – Levitra) starting with a low dose are
available for men with erectile dysfunction where he and his partner wish
to resume sexual activity. Common side effects are generally mild and relate
to vasodilation (flushing, nasal stuffiness). If vasodilating nitrates are used,
phosphodiesterase inhibitors can cause catastrophic and life threatening hypotension
and are contraindicated. Many of the men will have cardiovascular disease
(symptomatic or asymptomatic) and the potential cardiovascular risk of resuming
sexual activity needs to be discussed.
Other techniques like intrapenile prostaglandin E1 by injection (Caverject)
or vacuum devices may help.
The help of a sympathetic specialist urologist should be sought for those considering
penile injection with vasoactive agents (preparations now commercially available)
or surgical treatment.
Women with diabetes do not seem to suffer from as much sexual dysfunction as
men. Some women with diabetes complain of impairment in vaginal lubrication
with arousal, presumably due to pelvic autonomic neuropathy. Explanation and use
of lubricants may be useful.
Diabetes and reproductive health 77
11 Driving
iabetes is identified as one of the medical conditions that may
impair driving ability.
Drivers with diabetes must meet certain medical standards.
Whilst many factors contribute to safety on the road, driver health is an important
consideration. Therefore, certain criteria must be met by drivers to ensure that their
health status does not increase the risk of a crash in which they or other road users
may be killed or injured.
Medical standards for licensing and clinical management guidelines in
assessing fitness to drive for commercial and private vehicle drivers March
2012 can be found at www.austroads.com.au/assessing-fitness-to-drive/
Note that these are national standards. It is therefore important to contact the
driving authority in individual States and Territories as variations to the national
standards do exist.
Unexpected hypoglycaemia is the main hazard for those on glucose lowering
medications. People with type 2 diabetes not on hypoglycaemia inducing
medication may have their ability to drive safely impaired by sensory or end organ
complications, particularly reduced vision and reduced sensation in the feet.
Assessing Fitness to Drive 2012 provides:
• M
edical criteria for driver capability based on available evidence and expert
medical opinion
• Legal obligations of medical practitioners and drivers
• General guidelines for managing patients with respect to their fitness to drive
• A medical examination pro-forma to help guide the assessment process
• A reporting template to guide reporting to the Driver Licensing Authority.
After review medical practitioners can advise that a conditional licence
is appropriate.
Further details, including clinical examination pro-forma, medical condition
notification form, patient questionnaires and rights and responsibilities of medical
practitioners can be found at http://www.austroads.com.au
Diabetes Management in General Practice
12 Travel
Forward planning is the key to safe and enjoyable travel.
Special insurance may be necessary.
Australian air security guidelines apply.
atients should have a covering letter from their doctor and extra
supplies of food, medication and monitoring equipment.
People with diabetes can travel with safety provided a few extra precautions are taken
and the travel is planned. They should arrange a medical consultation at least 6 weeks
before the proposed travel to allow time to assess control and alter management
as required. Use this visit to check routine immunisation status and other
medication conditions.
Australian air authorities stipulate the following security guidelines. If not using an
Australian carrier, it is advisable for the patient to check with the chosen airline for
applicable security guidelines.
• A
ll diabetes supplies including testing equipment, insulin and glucagon delivery
devices (syringes, pen needles and insulin pump consumables) carried on board
must be in the hand luggage of the person who has diabetes and whose name
appears on the airline ticket. It is advisable to pack extra insulin in checkedin luggage.
• T
he traveller’s name should appear on the insulin and/or glucagon
prescription labels.
• I t is advisable to carry legible prescriptions for all medications. The prescriptions
must include the traveller’s name, name and type of medication and contact
details of attending medical practitioner.
• T
he National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) card is accepted as primary
proof that a person with insulin treated diabetes needs to carry with them their
diabetes equipment such as insulin pen, pump, syringes, needles and glucagon
kit. Supplementary photographic proof of identity such as a driver’s licence may
also be requested.
• I t is advisable to carry a letter from the attending medical practitioner which
outlines medical diagnoses, prescribed medications, if insulin is used and if so,
the delivery device/s. The letter must stress the importance of the patient having
to carry medications with them and include frequency of dosage. For those
using an insulin pump, the letter must stress the need for the pump to be worn
at all times.
• Australian airline regulations limit the amount of liquids (including aerosols and
Travel 79
gels) carried by international travellers in their carry-on baggage. Each container
must not exceed 100 ml and must fit into a transparent resealable plastic bag
no larger than one litre (approx 20 cm x 20 cm, purchased from the local
supermarket). While people with diabetes who need to carry supplies of insulin
are exempt, they will be required to present the insulin at the security point and
carry proof of their condition and their need for insulin.
• P
eople wearing electronic devices to monitor blood glucose levels or infuse
insulin should check with the airline as to whether these devices can be operated
in flight.
Rights of people with diabetes during security check
People with diabetes who use an insulin pump are not required to remove their
pump at the security point. If this is requested by security staff, the person with
diabetes has the right to request access to a private consultation room which security
staff are required to provide. People with diabetes are also entitled to make this
request if discussion about their condition is required.
Those people not using insulin generally have few problems during travel.
The stress of travel may increase blood glucose levels slightly. The decreased activity
experienced in a long plane trip, together with the amount of food given en route
often results in increased blood glucose levels. These return to normal once a more
usual lifestyle has been resumed at the destination.
http://travelsecure.infrastructure.gov.au and scroll down to ‘special needs’.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
13 Diabetes Australia
Diabetes Australia is a national body, representing a federation of consumer, health
professional and research organisations. It is the national peak body for diabetes
in Australia providing a single powerful voice for people living with diabetes, their
families and carers.
In 2007 Diabetes Australia developed a new strategic focus around five key national
priorities to turn diabetes around. These priorities span the full spectrum of the
disease: awareness, prevention, detection, management and cure. In collaboration
with State and Territory Diabetes Organisations, diabetes health professionals
and educators, researchers and health care providers, Diabetes Australia works to
minimise the impact of diabetes on the Australian community.
Diabetes Australia represents the interests of people with diabetes and those at risk
of developing diabetes. It is a significant financial contributor to research into better
treatments for diabetes and the search for a cure, with donations towards research
coming from a wide variety of sources. Diabetes Australia is the Australian member
of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and participates in leading medical
symposiums and conferences worldwide.
Working with general practice
The 'Diabetes Management Journal' is published quarterly by Diabetes Australia as
a direct line of communication between Diabetes Australia, general practitioners and
health professionals in the field of diabetes management. This ensures that messages
on the optimum care for people with diabetes and the latest developments in
diabetes management are delivered to front line health care providers. The 'Diabetes
Management Journal' is available through professional membership of State and
Territory Diabetes Organisations (call 1300 136 588).
State and Territory Diabetes Organisations – how your patients will
benefit from membership
With more than 180,000 members, membership of State and Territory Diabetes
Organisations offers exclusive benefits to people with diabetes and health
professionals including product discounts and other special services for a nominal
annual subscription fee. Call 1300 136 588 for details.
Educational resources from Diabetes Australia
Membership of State and Territory Diabetes Organisations provides access to a wide
range of educational resources including information sheets in different languages,
available for free download from www.diabetesaustralia.com.au with links to State
and Territory Diabetes Organisations.
Diabetes Australia 81
14 National Diabetes Services
Scheme (NDSS)
What is the NDSS?
The NDSS is an Australian Government Scheme, administered by Diabetes
Australia. The purpose of the Scheme is to deliver diabetes-related subsidised
products and information and support services to people diagnosed with diabetes.
Products available on the NDSS are blood glucose testing strips and urine testing
strips and free pen-needles and syringes. Insulin pump consumables are available on
the NDSS to Registrants who meet additional criteria.
The NDSS offers community tailored information programs, focused on improving
quality of diabetes care and self management.
NDSS Registrants should contact their local NDSS Agent on 1300 136 588 to find
out what free services they are entitled to as Registrants of the NDSS.
The role of the general practitioner
Diabetes Australia understands the importance of the initial information provided
by medical practitioners in ensuring that the newly diagnosed are referred to
the NDSS.
As the first point of contact at diagnosis, general practitioners are in a unique
position to improve a patient’s capacity to manage their diabetes through registration
with the NDSS. Refer to the lift-out card for information to correctly refer patients.
Diabetes Australia and the Australian Government would like to see every person
diagnosed with diabetes able to receive the very real benefits offered by the NDSS.
NDSS products and services
Diabetes related products and services available on the NDSS include:
• S ubsidised blood glucose testing strips and urine testing strips costing the
patient less in co-payment than those available with a prescription
• Free syringes and pen-needles for insulin-requiring Registrants
• Subsidised insulin pump consumables for eligible Registrants
• A range of information and education services.
A Registrant Information Pack is provided at the time of registration on the
NDSS. From time to time, Diabetes Australia may also send information to assist
Registrants in managing their diabetes and tell them about the NDSS. There are
no charges for these services and personal details remain confidential.
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Who is eligible to register
All Australians who have diabetes (including gestational diabetes) and a Medicare
card are able to benefit from the NDSS, as are some visitors to Australia who have
diabetes and are from a country with a reciprocal health agreement. Eligible persons
can only be registered by a doctor or credentialled diabetes educator.
Over one million people are registered on the NDSS, with new Registrants joining
at a rate of approximately 7,000 per month. It has been estimated that there may
be 50,000 people with diagnosed diabetes currently not registered with the NDSS
and at least another 500,000 with undiagnosed diabetes.
Registration forms are available from www.ndss.com.au or by calling
1300 136 588. Registration is free, easy and only has to be done once.
Access to the NDSS
Once registered with the NDSS, people with diabetes can access the wide range of
products through one of the 4,000 Access Points throughout Australia. Products
can also be mailed out by ordering over the phone, by fax or via the internet
(selected states only).
The NDSS and State and Territory NDSS Access Points also provide a range of
information and education services to Registrants.
For more information on the NDSS, including where NDSS products can be
purchased or information and services available through your NDSS Access Point,
go to www.ndss.com.au.
There is a difference
Registering with the NDSS does not automatically entitle your patients to
membership with State and Territory Diabetes Organisations. Membership
is separate and there is an annual subscription. For details phone your
nearest State or Territory Diabetes Organisation on 1300 136 588 or go to
www.diabetesaustralia.com.au for a link to your State or Territory.
The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is an initiative of the Australian
Government administered by Diabetes Australia.
National Diabetes Services Scheme 83
Further resources
(accessed June 2012)
Prevention/early detection
Guidelines for Preventive Activities in General Practice (the red book), 7th edition, 2009
Putting Prevention into Practice (the green book), 2nd edition, 2006
SNAP: A Population Health Guide to Behavioural Risk Factors in General Practice, 2004
Guidelines on Primary and Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in people with
Type 2 Diabetes www.nhmrc.gov.au
National Evidence Based Guidelines for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
National Evidence Based Guidelines on Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes Australia
Diabetes Australia
Diabetes Prevention and Management in General Practice: Using the Pen Computer
Systems Clinical Audit Tool
www.diabetesvic.org.au/health professionals/general practice program/clinical-audit-tool?
healthdirect — 24 hour health advice line
Freecall: 1800 022 222
NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service
Reality Check — type 1 diabetes network
Heart Foundation — Managing Lifestyle Risk Factors
National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians
Alcohol Guidelines
Dietary Guidelines for all Australians
Glycemic Index
Smoking Cessation Guidelines for Australian General Practice — including a desktop
Diabetes Management in General Practice
National Guide to a Preventive Assessment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
Travel and Diabetes
Australian Diabetes Educators Association — Guidelines for Sick day Management for people
with Diabetes, 2006
American Diabetes Association/European Association for the Study of Diabetes ‘Management of
Hyperglycaemia in Type 2 Diabetes: A patient-centred approach’ Diabetes Care 35:1201-1203,
Clinical Trials
ACCORD Study Group. Long term effects of intensive glucose lowering on cardiovascular
outcomes. N Engl J Med 2010 Mar 3 2008;358:2545-2559.
ACCORD Study Group. Effects of combination lipid therapy in type 2 diabetes mellitus. N
Engl J Med 2010 Apr 29;362(17):1563-1574.
ACCORD Study Group. Effects of intensive blood-pressure control in type 2 diabetes mellitus.
N Engl J Med 2010 Apr 29;362(17):1575-1585.
ADVANCE Collaborative Group, Patel A MacMahon S, et al. Intensive blood glucose control
and vascular outcomes in patients with type 2 diasbetes. N Engl J Med 2008;358:2560-2572.
VADT Study, Duckworth W, Abraira C, Moritz T, et al. Glucose control and vascular
complications in veterans with type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med 2009;360:129-139.
Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. 10-year follow-up of diabetes incidence and weight
loss in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Lancet 2009 Nov 14;374(9702):16771686.
Diabetes Control and Complications Trial Research Group. The effect of intensive treatment of
diabetes on the development and progression of long-term complications in insulin-dependent
diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med 1993 Sep 30;329(14):977-986.
Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and
Complications Research Group. Sustained effect of intensive treatment of type 1 diabetes
mellitus on development and progression of diabetic nephropathy, the Epidemiology of Diabetes
Interventions and Complications (EDIC) study. JAMA 2003;290:2159-2167.
United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study Group (UKPDS). Intensive blood glucose control
with sulphonylureas or insulin compared with conventional treatment and risk of complications
in people with diabetes. Lancet 1998;352:837-853.
United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study Group (UKPDS). Holman RR, Paul SJ, Bethel
MA, Matthews DR, Neil HA. 10-year follow-up of intensive glucose control in type 2 diabetes.
N Engl J Med 2008;359:1577-1589.
See also Internet Resources on Inside back cover.
Further resources 85
36, 37
ACE inhibitors/ARAs
61–62, 66, 72
General practice management
plans (GPMP)
Albumin creatinine ratio
Gestational diabetes
14, 18, 75
Glargine (Lantus)
46, 50
Annual cycle of care
6, 17, 59, 60
39, 65–66
Assessment, initial
Glomerular Filtration Rate
62, 63
51, 79
Blood pressure
17, 29, 59,
61–65, 73
Glycaemic control, targets
7, 23
Glycemic index (GI)
Body Mass Index
Glycemic load (GL)
Body weight
Goals for management
Back page
Byetta (Exenatide)
40–41, 45
6, 23
CGMS (Continuous Glucose
Monitoring System)
Healthy eating
High risk groups
Calcium antagonists
26, 29
HMGCoA Reductase Inhibitors
18, 67
Home Medicines Review
35, 71
Centrally acting agents
Hormone replacement therapy
Hypoglycaemic agents
Complementary medicines
Agents available
74, 76
Side effects
21, 77
Treatment algorithm
6, 10
62, 72
10, 12, 14, 15,
17, 18, 55–58,
62, 63
17, 63
Hyperglycaemic emergencies
Enhanced Primary Care program
19, 34
Erectile dysfunction
Exenatide (Byetta)
40–41, 45
Hyperosmolar non-ketotic coma
20, 28, 48
61–63, 66, 73
Eye damage
63, 73
63, 64, 72
23, 27, 28, 30,
39–41, 51, 62,
72, 73, 78
Foot problems
32, 79
40, 41, 42
Initial management
41, 64
Diabetes Management in General Practice
Practice nurses
20, 31, 35
Pens and pumps
48, 49, 52
21, 46–48
Types available
18, 74
Interaction with
other medications
42, 71, 72
62, 65–66
Ischaemic foot
Refractive errors
Renal damage
LADA (late-onset autoimmune
diabetes in adults)
20, 61, 66, 67
Lipids, targets
40, 41, 43
Service Incentive Program (SIP)
Sexual problems
Sick days
17, 31, 59, 60
19, 34–35
39–43, 52, 66
Statins (HMGCoA Reductase
39–43, 51
Surgical procedures: management
Systems for care
Team care arrangements (TCA)
34, 35, 37
Types of diabetes
Ulcers, foot
Urinary tract infection
53, 55, 57, 65
Waist circumference
19, 30, 53
National Integrated Diabetes
NDSS (National Diabetes
Services Scheme)
61, 65, 66, 74
Neuropathic joint damage
61, 68–72, 77
21, 71
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
10, 12, 75
Oral health
Osmotic diuresis
55, 57
Phosphodiesterase inhibitors
72, 77
Physical activity
20, 28
Poor control
Practice Incentive Program
34, 37
Index 87
The NDSS makes life with diabetes
easier to manage
If you have a patient with diabetes, register them with
the NDSS and assist them to manage their diabetes.
Registration is free and done only once.
The flip side of this page gives information on the
NDSS and how to register. It has been specifically
designed as a card for you to pull out and place on
your desk or nearby for easy reference.
The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is an initiative of the Australian Government
administered by Diabetes Australia.
National Diabetes Services Scheme
Why register?
The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) offers people with diabetes access
to diabetes-related products such as blood glucose testing strips, urine testing
strips and free insulin needles and syringes. Insulin pump consumables are available
on the NDSS to Registrants who meet additional criteria. For a full list of products
and prices, download the order form from www.ndss.com.au.
NDSS Registrants can also access a range of free information and support services.
Encourage your patients to contact their State or Territory NDSS Agent on 1300
136 588 to find out what services they can take advantage of to improve their
knowledge and management of diabetes.
Who is eligible?
All Australians who hold a Medicare card and have been diagnosed with diabetes
are eligible to receive the benefits offered under the NDSS.
How to register
n Fill in the NDSS Registration Form (available from www.ndss.com.au).
n Registration has to be certified by a GP or credentialled diabetes educator.
n Registration is free and done only once.
National Gestational Diabetes Register
All women diagnosed with gestational diabetes now go onto the National Gestational
Diabetes Register (NGDR), a component of the NDSS database.
How the NGDR will help your patients
Your patients with gestational diabetes will receive:
n regular reminders for follow up diabetes screening
n valuable information on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and minimise the risk
of type 2 diabetes.
The Registration form is available on the NDSS website.
For more information, refer your patients to their State or Territory NDSS Agent
Phone: 1300 136 588
Website: www.ndss.com.au
The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is an initiative of the Australian Government
administered by Diabetes Australia.
Internet resources
Consumer support
Special topics
(go to page 51 within pdf )
Healthy eating
http://travelsecure.infrastructure.gov.au (scroll down to 'Special Needs')
www.dtu.ox.ac.uk (downloadable UKPDS risk engine)
* Above websites accessed June 2012
* See also Further Resources on page 84
For copies of this booklet, contact your Medicare Local.
If not able to assist, email [email protected]
When referring your patients to their State or Territory Diabetes
Organisation, the phone number is 1300 136 588.
Internet resources 89
Goals for management
Encourage all people with diabetes to reach the following goals
for optimum management of their diabetes
Total cholesterol HDL-C LDL-C Non-HDL-C
Triglycerides Blood pressure BMI
Urinary albumin excretion Ideal 4.0–6.0 mmol/L (fasting)
NHMRC 6.1–8.0 mmol/L (fasting)
≤7 %
<4.0 mmol/L*
>1.0 mmol/L*
<2.0 mmol/L*
<2.5 mmol/L
<2.0 mmol/L*
≤130/80 mm Hg
18-24.9 kg/m2 where appropriate
<20 µg/min (timed overnight collection)
<20 mg/L (spot collection)
<3.5 mg/mmol: women
<2.5 mg/mmol: men
(albumin creatinine ratio)
Cigarette consumptionzero
Alcohol intake ≤2 standard drinks (20 g) per day for men
and women
Physical activity at least 30 minutes
walking (or equivalent)
5 or more days/week
(total >150 minutes/week)
Doctors should consider:
– Immunisation against influenza and pneumococcal disease
* National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance
Diabetes Management in General Practice

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