Dr Amir lists diabetes symptoms
The “catastrophic” effect of diabetes means more than 7,000 people die needlessly with the disease every year, damning analysis shows.
Deaths of those with the chronic condition were up 13 percent last year on pre-pandemic levels as the scale of the UK’s fastest-growing health emergency becomes clear.
Last night there were renewed demands to urgently address the crisis before it engulfs the NHS and claims more lives.
Chris Askew, chief executive of charity Diabetes UK, said: “The Government must commit to tackling this crisis.”
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease but with Type 2 the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar, fails and people become resistant to it.
Blood sugar levels start to rise, damaging circulation and blood vessels, causing inflammation as the liver becomes clogged with fat.
The obesity epidemic has seen the number of sufferers rocket exponentially.
Officially, there are 4.3 million people living with diabetes – 90 percent of them are Type 2 – but nearly a million more have it without knowing.
Some 2.4 million more are pre-diabetic and another 13.6 million feared to be at high-risk of developing the condition.
It means roughly one third of the UK has – or is prone to – a disease largely triggered by being overweight and eating unhealthily.
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Dr David Unwin, from Southport, Merseyside, said: “I have been a family GP working in a busy NHS practice for 37 years.
“In 1986 we had just 57 people with Type 2, a disease that was exclusively a problem for older people. Fast forward to 2023 and in the same population we have over 500 cases. The youngest is just 22 years old.
“Something like this is replicated in every practice across the land and indeed across the world. It’s another pandemic and one that is affecting younger and younger people.
“A look in any supermarket or petrol station gives a clue. Shelves and shelves of colourful packets and bottles of sugary drinks. Ultra-processed junk foods are making up ever more of our diet.
“Our NHS is exhausted trying to cope with the ever-growing burden of chronic diseases linked to obesity.”
Diabetes UK today lays bare the scale of the looming catastrophe as it begs ministers to put the condition at the heart of its yet-to-be-published Major Conditions Strategy, a plan to address some of the biggest diseases.
Analysis of diabetes care reveals thousands of excess deaths – as alarming numbers of sufferers miss checks that can flag up complications.
Type 2 is diagnosed with a blood sugar test with the threshold being readings of 48 or more. A reading of 43-plus is considered pre-diabetic.
The condition can lead to dangerously high blood sugar levels, which over time can damage organs and body tissue, causing complications such as kidney failure, eye and foot problems, heart attacks and stroke.
The probe by Diabetes UK found “fragmented” access to services is having a hugely damaging impact on millions, with many left to manage the condition all alone.
In its shock report, the charity found less than half of all diabetics received required checks in 2021/22, meaning 1.9 million did not receive care they needed. Compared to the year before Covid struck (2019/20), almost 300,000 fewer people with diabetes received all eight checks.
This includes monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, all key to controlling the condition.
In a separate survey more than 11,000 sufferers – almost half those polled – said they experienced difficulties managing their condition.
In 2022, there were 7,125 of excess deaths – 13 percent higher than would have been expected, according to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities data. The situation worsened in the first part of this year, with 1,461 excess deaths between January and March, three times as high as the same period in 2022.
Diabetes UK fears the increase may be linked to the backlog in routine care caused by the pandemic.
An NHS study last year linked a rise in deaths among diabetics with a fall in care processes the year before.
Diabetes UK is urging ministers to release plans to tackle the backlog in care and provide more support to help people avoid Type 2.
It also wants a fresh commitment from the Government to implement its stalled obesity strategy “in full and without further delay”, including limiting junk food marketing.
Mr Askew added: “Diabetes is relentless and people living with [the disease] need the support and monitoring of healthcare professionals. This routine care can be lifesaving.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We’re helping people make healthier choices by restricting the location of foods high in fat, salt or sugar and introducing calorie labelling on menus. Our Major Conditions Strategy will cover Type 2 diabetes and help reduce pressure on the NHS.
“Cutting waiting lists is one of the Government’s top five priorities and the NHS has virtually eliminated waits of over two years for treatment and has cut 18-month waits by over 50 percent in a year.”
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