Belfast Telegraph

Warning over diabetic 'epidemic'

Ireland is facing a diabetes epidemic with as many as 30,000 people yet to be diagnosed with the disease, it has been warned.

A study found a further 146,000 people may have undetected pre-diabetes, a borderline condition which could develop into the full blown disease as well as heart complications.

Health insurer Vhi Healthcare screened more than 19,000 people for type II diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors, in what it said was the largest study of its kind in Ireland.

The screening began in January 2009, and another 5,000 are to be tested.

The findings to date show more than 2,400 of those examined have either diabetes or pre-diabetes.

If the figures are reflected across the entire population of 45- to 75-year-olds, it means almost 30,000 are suffering undetected type II diabetes and over 146,000 people have undetected pre-diabetes, said the health insurer.

Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director with Vhi Healthcare, said the study heralds a major health problem. "The findings speak for themselves, we are facing a diabetes epidemic in the years ahead which will have a major impact on healthcare funding and delivery unless we can take steps to tackle this immediately," she said.

Diabetes is a long-term condition caused by too much glucose, a type of sugar, in the blood. There are two types, type I and type II. Symptoms include feeling very thirsty, going to the toilet a lot, especially at night, extreme tiredness, weight loss and muscle wasting.

But Dr Carr said both diabetes and pre-diabetes can be prevented if those at risk make lifestyle changes.

"As individuals we have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to make the simple changes to our lifestyles that will help keep us healthy and well," she said. "Diabetes is a disease that can have serious impacts on health and quality of life yet some small simple steps can play a huge role in prevention."

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