According to a new study, people who do not know they have type 2 diabetes are at risk of disease due to several years of delays in diagnosis.
Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed after blood or urine tests for something else, though the five-year NHS health check for people over 40 also looks for the condition.
A new study of more than 200,000 people found that people with type 2 diabetes wait an average of 2.3 years – and sometimes more than five years – before finding out that they have the disease.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from delays, as are those who are not necessarily obese and people whose blood sugar levels are on the lower end of the diabetes range.
Around 4.8 million people in the UK have diabetes, including around one million who are unaware that they have type 2, which can be caused by obesity.
About 90% of diabetes cases are type 2 with complications from the condition, including heart, kidney, and eye problems.
The new study, presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference, analyzed data from the UK Biobank study, in which participants give a blood sample if they first consent to the research.
Dr. Katie Young of the University of Exeter analyzed data from 201,465 people in the study and found that 2,022 had a reported HbA1c (a measure of the average blood sugar level over the past two to three months) of 48 mmol / mol (6.5 %) or more.
This is the threshold above which, in combination with additional measures, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed.
Dr. Young linked the data to the GP records for each person and found that after the elevated HbA1c test, it took an average of 2.3 years to make a clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Almost a quarter of people (23%) had still not received a diagnosis after five years of high blood sugar levels.
The researchers suggested that some type 2 patients may not experience common diabetes symptoms that can take a long time to develop, such as: For example, going to the bathroom a lot, being very thirsty, feeling more tired than usual, and losing weight without trying.
Dr. Young said, “The results of this study complement previous research suggesting that population-level screening for type 2 diabetes could potentially identify many cases and improve patient outcomes by allowing lifestyle interventions and diabetes treatments to begin much earlier.
“Unfortunately, screening initiatives like the NHS health check were not offered or started at normal price last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Diabetes UK’s Director of Research, Dr. Elizabeth Robertson said, “This research provides clear evidence of delays in diagnosing type 2 diabetes.
“Early diagnosis is the best way to avoid the devastating complications of type 2 diabetes and is the best way to live long and healthy lives with type 2 diabetes.
“Type 2 diabetes can sometimes go undetected for up to 10 years, which can lead to serious complications.
“While symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be difficult to spot in the early stages, it’s important to know the signs to look out for and, if you notice anything unusual, to speak to your GP.
“Around 12.3 million people in the UK are at increased risk of developing this disease, but many will not be aware of the risk.
“We encourage anyone concerned with Type 2 Diabetes to use Diabetes UK for free online Know your risk Tool.”