Health professionals warn that UK faces a 'devastating' type 2 diabetes epidemic as obesity levels rise

Posted: 31/07/2014


An estimated 3.1 million people have been diagnosed with some form of diabetes in the UK, of whom 850,000 people are unaware that they have the condition. The total figure for those with diabetes is projected to reach five million by 2025 with 90% of those affected having type 2 diabetes. The NHS already spends around 10% of its budget on diabetes and, if preventative measures are not put in place to combat the disease, Public Health England (PHE) has warned that this crippling financial burden on the NHS could possibly double over the next few years.

The rapid rise in the number of adults developing type 2 diabetes is due to increasing levels of obesity, a lack of exercise and an increase in unhealthy diets. A PHE report highlighted that men with a 40in (102cm) waist are five times more likely to get type 2 diabetes than those with a slimmer waistline and women with a waistline of 35in (88cm) increased their risk threefold. PHE doctors have advised people to 'keep an eye on your waist measurement' as losing weight was 'the biggest thing you can do' to combat the disease. It is recommended that people 'measure across the belly button' to ensure that correct waistline measurements are obtained, as people mistakenly think their trouser size counts as their waistline.

There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes often develops in the teenage years, while type 2 diabetes tends to be diagnosed in people over the age of 40. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1 diabetes and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin to function properly or the body’s cells do not react to insulin, both of which can have dire health consequences.

Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, can cause kidney failure, and is the leading cause of blindness in people of working age. This condition also damages blood vessels and nerves and results in 100 foot amputations each week within the UK. Furthermore, if someone has type 2 diabetes at the age of 50, their life expectancy may be up to six years shorter than someone without the disease.

Naomi Holland, an associate in the Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team, comments: “These figures are certainly alarming and it is important that people with a poor lifestyle are made aware that they are at risk of type 2 diabetes. Quite often the condition is only picked up during a routine medical check-up with a GP and, once a diagnosis is made, it is very important that the correct treatment is provided. This will include advice on healthy living and monitoring of blood glucose levels to ensure that they are within normal limits.

“In our clinical negligence practice we encounter a number of issues surrounding the management of patients with diabetes which will need to improve if the numbers diagnosed continue to surge. These include delayed diagnosis, failure to monitor medication leading to poor control or complications from side effects, errors in management of foot issues – often resulting in avoidable amputation – and failure to refer ophthalmic issues that lead to compromised vision.”


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