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Over 40% of people unaware diabetes can lead to blindness

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Over 40 per cent of British people do not realise that blindness is one of the major complications of diabetes, according to a survey published by Diabetes UK.

The survey of 1,994 adults aged 15 and over, conducted by by Ipsos Mori, found that 41 per cent of people are unaware that diabetes can lead to blindness, as diabetes can lead to blood vessels to the retina becoming blocked, leaky or growing haphazardly. 

This is despite the fact that, actually, diabetes is the biggest cause of preventable blindness among working age people in the UK and diabetes also puts people at increased risk of developing glaucoma (a build-up of pressure in the eye) and cataracts.

This is worrying because if people are unaware of the potentially devastating health complications among people with diabetes, they may not realise how important it is to make the healthy lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes (Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for about 10 per cent of diagnosed cases, is nothing to do with weight or lifestyle).

As part of its effort to raise awareness of the seriousness of diabetes, Diabetes UK has launched a hard-hitting new TV advertising campaign that highlights the devastating impact Type 2 diabetes can have on people with the condition, and their loved ones. As up to 80 per cent of cases of Type 2 could be prevented or delayed, the charity hopes the adverts will encourage people to take action now to make lifestyle changes.

The survey also revealed a deeply concerning lack of awareness among the general public of other potentially devastating health complications of diabetes. For example, less than two in five (39 per cent) people know that diabetes can lead to heart attacks while two thirds (66 per cent) of people are unaware that people with diabetes are at higher risk of stroke.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “The frightening reality is that within 20 years of diagnosis,  almost two thirds of people with Type 2 diabetes will have some problems with their eyes, yet it seems that millions of people do not realise that blindness is a complication of diabetes. 

“This survey highlights a worrying lack of awareness of the devastating complications of diabetes among the general public, despite the fact that there are now 3.8 million people living with the condition. We urgently need to tackle this and so help prevent even more people from suffering avoidable health complications and to save the NHS’s finances, as 10 per cent of the entire NHS budget is spent on diabetes and some 80 per cent of this goes on treating complications that could often be prevented.“Our TV adverts aim to help people  gain a new understanding of the seriousness of diabetes and  make a personal commitment to take action to reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, or if they have already been diagnosed, to manage their condition better. Only then will we see a future with less diabetes, less heart breaking complications like blindness and less pressure on the NHS services and finances.”

To help them take the first step to better health, viewers can text THINK 1 to 70060 or call 0800 123 1234 to receive a free pedometer and a guide designed to managing your diabetes.

The advertising campaign runs from Monday 1 June to 14 September with adverts appearing on TV and print adverts appearing in cinema washrooms. 

To find out more about diabetes and its complications you can call the Diabetes UK Careline on 0345 123 2399 or email careline@diabetes.org.uk 

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