Just over half (56 per cent) of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last year did not even suspect they could have the condition, as they failed to identify its early symptoms, says a new report by Diabetes UK.
Late diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes leaves people at risk of developing the serious complications of the condition, including stroke, heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and amputation - half of the people with the condition already show signs of complications by the time they are diagnosed.
Most only diagnosed 'by accident'
In addition, the majority of people were diagnosed with the condition 'by accident' while undergoing routine medical tests or while being treated for other conditions or medical issues: only 16 per cent of people were diagnosed after they proactively asked for a diabetes test.
Up to half a million unaware of their diabetes
Diabetes UK estimates that there are up to 500,000 people in the UK who have diabetes but are not aware of it.
Be aware of the risk and ask for a test
“We need to make sure that people are aware of the risk factors and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes and we need to encourage them to ask for a diabetes test if they are at risk of developing the condition," said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.
Early diagnosis helps prevent complications
“Diabetes awareness is key if we want to prevent people from facing a future of ill health: being diagnosed early means that you are less likely to develop the serious complications of diabetes.
Making diabetes a high Government priority
"We already know that more and more people are developing the condition in the UK and therefore we urge the Government to keep diabetes and diabetes awareness at the top of the health agenda.
Diabetes UK leads the way
"Diabetes UK will continue to lead the way with its Diabetes Risk Assessment programme, where we bring diabetes awareness to the general public through UK-wide events and to businesses through targeted workshops.”
New Government programme
Diabetes UK believes that the Government’s new Vascular Risk and Management Programme, targeting people between the ages of 40 and 74, will help identify people with Type 2 diabetes.
Improved access needed
The charity also wants to see improved access to health services for the many communities in the UK who, because of their social or ethnic backgrounds, may currently be excluded from mainstream services.
It is also important that diabetes testing and diabetes awareness programmes are available through a variety of settings, such as pharmacies and local outreach services.