It's the country's fastest-growing disease, but most Australians don't recognise all the symptoms of diabetes, a new survey shows.

On the eve of National Diabetes Week, a Galaxy poll commissioned by the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line has found 97 per cent of Australians do not know all the major symptoms or how many types of the disease there are.

Almost one in five people polled did not recognise that obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, and two thirds did not realise the development of type 2 diabetes can be slowed through better diet and exercise, according to the research.

Australian Diabetes Council (ADC) CEO Nicola Stokes said key symptoms for type 1 diabetes, like excessive thirst, were well-recognised.

But some symptoms of type 2 diabetes were harder to spot.

"With type 2 you can just be tired, lethargic, and everything is becoming more difficult - and that's just our lives, these days," she told AAP.

She said new polling of ADC members showed diabetes was shaping up to be an election issue.

Overall, members ranked diabetes management as a top concern, ahead of the cost of living, work and employment or relationships.

"This is a cry for help that I think the government really needs to listen to," Ms Stokes said.

"They want the tools to manage their own condition but what they really want is to help their children, (who may be) predisposed to developing diabetes."

She's called on both sides of politics to direct more resources toward programs aimed at preventing diabetes.

The ADC says up to 60 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases are preventable, and the cost of treating an individual for diabetes complications could cost up to $16,700 a year.

One Australian is diagnosed with diabetes every five minutes, according to the ADC.

"If we don't contain these costs at the rate diabetes is growing, there won't be a health budget for anything else," Ms Stokes said.


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