New research highlights lack of awareness about prediabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on June 24, 2014

Many countries are facing a type 2 diabetes epidemic because a large number of people with raised blood sugar levels are unaware of their condition and therefore not taking action to stave off the chances of developing the disease.

New figures for the UK show just how widespread prediabetes, a term used to indicate that a person has high blood sugar levels and is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, has become widespread, with more than 1 in 3 adults having prediabetes yet unaware of it.


New figures show 1 in 3 people in the UK have prediabetes and don’t know it

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that as a result, the country is facing a type 2 diabetes epidemic of unprecedented proportions and that prediabetes should not be taken lightly as it can reduce life expectancy and lead to complications that seriously affect quality of life, such as blindness and amputation.

The number of people affected by prediabetes is now three times what it was a decade ago. Even doctors are surprised by the extent of the surge in prediabetes. ‘This study has taken us all by surprise; it’s been a bit of a health bombshell,’ said Dr. Stephen Lawrence, a GP and clinical adviser on diabetes to the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The figures are ‘alarming’ according to Simon O’Neill, director of policy at Diabetes UK, the country’s leading diabetes charity.

One concern is that when informed they have prediabetes, many people do not think it is much of an issue. ‘Many of my patients seem supremely unimpressed when I give them the news that they have prediabetes. They feel entirely well, yet prediabetes is a warning sign that without taking steps to change your risk [level], you’re well on the way to developing type 2 diabetes,’ said Dr Sarah Jarvis.

‘It means you’re drinking in the ‘last chance saloon’ if you want to avoid a condition which increases your risk of heart attack, kidney damage, blindness and amputation. But it also carries risks in its own right, even if you feel perfectly healthy,’ she added.

The new figures come at a time when a study has found that there is a major disparity across the country when it comes to diabetes screening checks, especially for complications.

The UK has Clinical Commissioning Groups which are responsible for commissioning healthcare services for NHS surgeries, but the difference between the best CCG and the worst differs widely according to data from Diabetes UK.

The best care provider has 78.3% of diabetes patients receiving all the health checks they are entitled to whilst the worst has just 18.5% of patients. Overall, 27 different CCGs failed to provide suitable health checks to more than 50% of patients.

The charity pointed out that diabetes health checks allow a health team to properly screen for the presence of diabetes complications. The earlier that diabetes complications are spotted, the better the chance of treating the complications and the less likely that severe outcomes, including kidney failure and amputations will occur.

It added that diabetes complications have a large impact upon people’s health and the amount of care and cost required to treat complications if they are allowed to develop unnoticed.

‘We want CCGs, who, at the moment, do not give these checks to enough people to set out how they plan to improve the situation and for the government to explain how it is going to ensure people with diabetes can be confident they will get good quality care, wherever they live,’ said Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK.



The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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