Britain sees surge in diabetes

Novo Nordisk, the world's largest maker of diabetes drugs, has invested millions in a new research centre in the UK. [Shutterstock]

New figures show that the number of persons living with diabetes in the UK has risen by 1.2 million in just one decade.

According to Diabetes UK, 3.3 million people in Britain are now diagnosed with diabetes, up from an estimated two million in 2005.

Moreover, the figures, which were compiled by the National Health Service (NHS), don’t take the number of undiagnosed people into account, which is estimated to be 600,000.

“Over the past decade, the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has increased by over one million people, which is the equivalent of the population of a small country such as Cyprus. With a record number of people now living with diabetes in the UK, there is no time to waste – the government must act now,” Barbara Young, the CEO of Diabetes UK, said in a statement.

Every two minutes, an EU citizen dies of diabetes-related diseases, according to the European Diabetes Leadership Forum (EDLF), a stakeholder organisation which aims to move diabetes up the public health agenda.

50% of all people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease, making diabetes the fourth most common cause of death in Europe, EDLF figures show. Meanwhile, 10-20% die of kidney failure, 10% develop severe visual impairment and 50% suffer from diabetic neuropathy, it says.

Diabetes UK warns that the growth in numbers reflects an urgent need for effective care for people living with diabetes. The charity also highlighted the importance of prevention and that failure to act threatens to bring down the NHS.

Young pointed to the fact that diabetes already costs the NHS £10 billion a year ( €14.1 billion), with 80% spent on managing avoidable complications.

“So there is huge potential to save money and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals and services through providing better care to prevent people with diabetes from developing devastating and costly complications,” she said.

Denmark is another country which has witnessed a surge in the number of diabetes cases. From 2002 to 2012, the country saw an 84% rise, from 174,000 to 320,500 diagnoses. The country expect this number to double by 2025.

Diabetes describes a group of diseases in which an individual has high blood sugar, because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body's cells are not responding properly to insulin, or both. High blood sugar leads to frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger.

Untreated, diabetes can cause many complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes.

  • 14 November: World Diabetes Day 2015.

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