A quarter of a million Britons don’t know they have a silent killer – 7 signs you need to know

A quarter of a million Britons do not know they are living with a silent killer, new research has revealed.

Experts from the University of Exeter said all adults aged 40-70 should be screened for type 2 diabetes.

New figures have revealed that a quarter of a million Britons do not know they are living with type 2 diabetes.  The NHS says being thirsty is one of the key symptoms


New figures have revealed that a quarter of a million Britons do not know they are living with type 2 diabetes. The NHS says being thirsty is one of the key symptomscredit: Getty

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high, explains the NHS.

It is often referred to as the silent killer because in many cases, people do not know they have the disease – as it can take a long time for symptoms to appear.

The condition, if left untreated, can lead to stroke, heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and a risk of amputation, Diabetes UK states.

Medics said that offering screening would help reduce a person’s risk of complications associated with the disease.

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The experts, writing in Diabetology, said that if the test was offered to every adult, undiagnosed cases of the condition could be identified up to two years earlier.

Led by Dr Katie Young from the University of Exeter, medics wanted to assess whether people would get a faster diagnosis if the routine blood test was used in the NHS check-up – also known as mid-life MOT. No.

They looked at data from people who were given an HbA1c blood test when they signed up for the UK Biobank study.

This was then linked to GP records to see whether patients already had a diagnosis of diabetes.

Some 7.3 percent of those who were tested had already been diagnosed with the condition.

Of the 167,000 people who were not diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, about one percent were not diagnosed with diabetes.

The participants were tracked for a total of ten years and the experts found that the average time to diagnosis was 2.2 years.

Medics said: “The findings support the use of HbA1c screening to reduce the time for which individuals are living with undiagnosed diabetes.”

7 symptoms of type 2 diabetes you need to know

NHS guidance states that most people have type 2 diabetes without knowing it.

That’s because symptoms won’t always make you feel unwell, he said.

The seven main symptoms are:

  1. urinating more than usual, especially at night
  2. feeling thirsty all the time
  3. feeling very tired
  4. lose weight without trying
  5. itching, or frequent blisters around your penis or vagina
  6. cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  7. blurred vision

He said there are around 25 million adults aged 40-70 in the UK who have not been diagnosed with the condition – but who are living with it.

This means that 250,000 adults in this age group do not have a diagnosis of diabetes that could be detected by HbA1c-based screening, he said.

Lucy Chambers, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, said the research provides clear evidence of delayed diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Earlier this month the charity predicted that 850,000 of the 4.9 million Brits living with diabetes may not even know they have it.

Lucy said this suggests that testing for average blood sugar levels at a population level could help pick up cases of type 2 diabetes sooner than they might otherwise.

“Early diagnosis is the best way to avoid the devastating complications of type 2 diabetes, and offers the best chance of living a long and healthy life with type 2 diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes sometimes goes undiagnosed for up to 10 years, which can lead to serious complications.

“While the symptoms of type 2 diabetes can sometimes be difficult to detect in the early stages, it is important to know the signs, including increased thirst, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and urinating more frequently. If you notice anything unusual, Talk to your GP practice,” she said.

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