Study says over 500,000 people in the UK could have ‘undiagnosed’ diabetes

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

By Pramod Thomas

A NEW STUDY has revealed that over 500,000 people in the UK, one per cent of the population, could be living with type 2 diabetes ‘without knowing’ it.

The study by the University of Exeter has suggested that a national screening programme should be brought in to improve diagnosis.

For the study, scientists analysed blood samples from 200,000 Britons aged between 40 and 70 on the UK Biobank database and and compared their blood sugar levels to GP records. Out of which 2,000 had very high blood sugar levels.

This indicated that they had diabetes, but were not diagnosed with the condition.

The situation is alarming in Britain as two-thirds of adults are either obese or overweight, one of the highest rates in the Western world.

Experts warn that the country’s obesity epidemic has led to soaring levels of type 2 diabetes.

“As people can have type 2 diabetes for many years without symptoms, diagnosis may be delayed, increasing the risk of complications. Our study shows that population-level screening could identify cases of type 2 diabetes far earlier and potentially reduce complications,” said co-author of the study Dr Katherine Young.

“We identified that screening by HbA1c would have identified an extra 1 per cent of a population aged 40-70 years as having undiagnosed diabetes. This screening diagnosis would have been approximately two years before a clinical diagnosis was made.”

Diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels rise to risky heights and can lead to fatal complications, including amputations, sight loss, stroke and heart disease.

It is mostly diagnosed by measuring the level of HbA1c, a haemoglobin which is chemically linked to sugar, in the bloodstream

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes, which include frequently going to the toilet, being thirsty and feeling tired, are easy to miss, said experts.

Obese men over the age of 60 were more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes than women, the researchers found.

Currently, more than 4 million people in the UK have diabetes, compared with just 1.8 million in 1998.

Dr Faye Riley, of Diabetes UK, pointed out that the research revealed that many people could have type 2 diabetes without even ‘knowing’ it.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the European association for the study of Diabetes.