Diabetes UK warns that a large number of people may have diabetes without knowing about it. According to the latest figures from the charity, there are almost 3.3 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with the condition, and it is estimated that a further 590,000 people have type 2 diabetes but are unaware of it.
The charity has warned that type 2 diabetes is “spiralling out of control and could bankrupt the NHS.” The cause of the problem is clear – obesity is more prevalent than ever, thanks to the increasing number of people living sedentary lifestyles and making poor dietary choices. When too much fat accumulates in the pancreas, type 2 diabetes starts to develop.
Experts say that despite the seriousness of the condition, type 2 diabetes can be ‘silent’ in the early stages, having little or no noticeable effects.
In the following videos Dr Chris explores diabetes in more detail.
Possible Symptoms of Diabetes
“A lot of people with type 2 diabetes don’t have any symptoms at all,” says Pav Kalsi, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK.
“Or they may miss the signs. With type 1 diabetes, the symptoms develop quickly and are more obvious, but with type 2 they are more subtle. If someone drinks three or four cups of tea a day normally, they might start to have a fifth one. However, you may not notice that as a significant increase in your fluid intake.”
Kalsi says that some of the symptoms you may experience but might not associate with diabetes include:
- Infections that don’t respond to treatment or keep returning – perhaps ear infections, urinary tract infections or thrush
- Slight changes in vision – most commonly blurring vision, which can sometimes temporarily correct existing sight problems such as short or long sight
- Snoring when you never used to or feeling excessively tired during the day
- Problems with hearing, which are caused by high levels of sugar in the blood damaging blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear
- Dark, thickened patches of skin, which are caused by high levels of insulin altering the pigment in skin cells
Often people who experience some of these symptoms assume they are part of the normal ageing process. However, it’s important to be aware of what these signs can mean so that you know when to get checked by a doctor. You should be particularly wary of them if you have some of the high risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as having a family member with the condition or having a waist measurement of over 31.5 inches if you’re a woman (35 inches if you’re a man).
Unfortunately, too many people don’t take the risk of type 2 diabetes as seriously as they should, falsely believing that type 1 diabetes is the only kind to be concerned about.
50-year-old Jo Jones from Stockport admits that she didn’t worry too much when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 33.
“It wasn’t something like cancer,” she says. “I thought I’d just have to cut back on sugar.”
However, this attitude led to more serious problems. Complications of the condition led to her having her leg amputated below the knee two years ago. Her eyesight is also deteriorating and she as at risk of blindness in the future.
“After my diagnosis, they gave me a testing kit to check my blood sugar twice a day,” she says. “As well as going on a diet – losing five stone – I was prescribed a diabetes pill, metformin, to help control my blood sugar. The problem was I felt perfectly well, so I didn’t always bother to check my blood sugar and my weight crept back up.”
Initially, Jo didn’t have any of the common symptoms of the condition or notice any signs at all. She only chose to be tested because she was visiting her GP about something else, and decided to get checked only because her mother had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
While unhealthy lifestyle can put you at risk of type 2 diabetes, the condition can affect anyone. Genes and lifestyle both play a role but sometimes the condition develops for no obvious reason. Because of this, everyone should be aware of the potential subtle symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored. Getting diagnosed and learning how to properly manage the condition is essential if you want to avoid serious complications like amputations.