Tell-tale signs of diabetes amid warning cases set ‘to surpass one billion’ - when to see a GP

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Diabetes UK has warned the nation is in a “rapidly escalating diabetes crisis”

More than a billion people around the world are expected to be living with diabetes over the coming years, a new study has warned.

Case numbers are set to “grow massively” in every country and among every age group and sex, according to academics, with forecasters predicted some 1.3 billion people will have the disease by 2050 - more than double the 529 million cases in 2021.

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Forecasters have separately predicted that by 2050 the world’s population will be about 9.7 billion, meaning around 13.4% - between one in seven and one in eight people - will be living with diabetes.

Diabetes UK has warned the nation is in a “rapidly escalating diabetes crisis” (Photo: Adobe)Diabetes UK has warned the nation is in a “rapidly escalating diabetes crisis” (Photo: Adobe)
Diabetes UK has warned the nation is in a “rapidly escalating diabetes crisis” (Photo: Adobe) | Piman Khrutmuang - stock.adobe.c

The study, published in a new series by The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, says that no country in the world is likely to see a decline in the rising rates of the disease. It is suggested by researchers that “structural racism and geographic inequity” are accelerating the “global crisis” of diabetes, with case numbers among minority ethnic groups in wealthy countries much higher than rates seen in white ethnic groups.

The team said that people from marginalised communities are less likely to get access to essential medicines and new treatments, have worse blood sugar control, and have a lower quality of life and reduced life expectancy.

Meanwhile, in the UK alone there are currently more than five million cases of diabetes and Diabetes UK warned earlier this year that the nation is in a “rapidly escalating diabetes crisis”.

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More than four million people have already been diagnosed, while an estimated 850,000 are living with the condition without having been formally diagnosed. About nine in 10 cases of diabetes in the UK are type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to being overweight or inactive and causes the level of sugar in the blood to become too high.

The charity said that the condition is becoming increasingly common among those under the age of 40 and more prevalent in areas where there are higher levels of deprivation, adding that the risk factors are “multiple and complex” and include age, family history, ethnicity, as well as being overweight or obese.

Commenting on the latest study, Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “This important study underlines the sheer scale of the diabetes crisis we’re facing, both in the UK and around the world.

“We already know that in the UK, type 2 diabetes does not affect everyone equally. Your ethnicity, where you live and your income all affect your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, the care you receive and your long-term health, and these are all interlinked.

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“The need for concerted cross-government action to address inequalities in diabetes prevalence and outcomes, as well as the underlying conditions of ill health, such as poverty and living with obesity, has never been greater or more urgent.”

As diabetes cases continue to rise, people are being urged to look for tell-tale signs of the disease. The NHS advises seeing a GP as soon as possible if you experience any of the following main symptoms:

  • feeling very thirsty
  • peeing more frequently than usual, particularly at night
  • feeling very tired
  • weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
  • itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
  • blurred vision

Type 1 diabetes can develop quickly over weeks or even days and weight loss is a common symptom when it first develops and before it is treated. By comparison, it is less common among people with type 2 diabetes. As the early symptoms of type 2 diabetes tend to be general - or non-existent - many people live with it for years without realising.

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