Millions at risk of dying young from undiagnosed type 2 diabetes – the 7 signs of silent killer

MILLIONS of people are at risk of dying young from undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, experts are warning.

Those with the condition are 50 per cent more likely to die prematurely than those without diabetes, Diabetes UK revealed.

 One million Brits don't know they have type 2 diabetes


One million Brits don’t know they have type 2 diabetesCredit: Getty – Contributor

It comes as the charity carried out a study which revealed there are almost a million people living with the life-threatening condition who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed.

In particular, a common complication of diabetes that can lead to early death is heart disease.

And people with type 2 diabetes are two to two-and-a-half times more likely to experience heart failure and twice more likely to have a heart attack compared to people without diabetes.

In particular, many people have type 2 diabetes without realising because the symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.

Here, we take you through the key seven signs to look for to increase earlier detection and promote action.

1. Peeing more than usual

Needing to go to the toilet more than usual is a common sign of the condition.

This is because after a long period, the pancreas – which produces the insulin – becomes so tired that it can no longer produce enough insulin.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the disease – accounting for between 85 and 95 per cent of all cases, according to Diabetes UK.

It develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin.

It can also be triggered when the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly.

Typically, people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from the age of 40, but there are some exceptions.

In people from southern Asia the disease can appear as early as 25.

And the condition is becoming more prevalent in children, teenagers of all ethnicities.

Experts suggest the rising rates of type 2 diabetes is due to the obesity epidemic – a key cause of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can be treated with drugs, and many people can reverse their condition by adopting a healthy lifestyle – a healthy diet and exercise.

High levels of blood sugar then get passed into the urine to try to excrete it from the body.

That’s why you need to pee more and it might smell slightly sweeter than usual.

2. Feeling thirsty all the time

High blood sugar levels can lead to dehydration.

A person with uncontrolled diabetes may experience polydipsia, a form of extreme thirst.

Diabetes can also prevent the body from absorbing water, creating a vicious cycle if the condition is not being managed correctly.

Polydipsia can leave a person feeling an overwhelming need for water, have a very dry mouth or feel dizzy.

3. Afternoon slump and tiredness

Many people with diabetes will describe themselves as feeling tired, lethargic or fatigued at times.

Two common reasons for tiredness or lethargy are having too high or too low blood sugar levels.

In both cases, the tiredness is the result of having an imbalance between one’s level of blood glucose and the amount or effectiveness of circulating insulin.

If you feel tired during the day, despite having slept well, it could be a result of either high or low sugar levels.

4. Losing weight without trying to

A decrease in body weight that occurs unintentionally can be a warning sign of diabetes.

In people with diabetes, insufficient insulin prevents the body from getting glucose from the blood into the body’s cells to use as energy.

 Insulin is a hormone typically produced by the pancreas and allows glucose to enter the cells in the body, where it’s used for energy


Insulin is a hormone typically produced by the pancreas and allows glucose to enter the cells in the body, where it’s used for energyCredit: Getty Images

When this occurs, the body starts burning fat and muscle for energy, causing a reduction in overall body weight.

Unexpected weight loss is often noticed in people prior to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes but it may also affect people with type 2 diabetes.

5. Genital itching or thrush

Type 2 diabetes can make it extremely itchy and uncomfortable around your penis or vagina.

In diabetes, blood glucose levels can go abnormally high, which can therefore provide ideal conditions for naturally present yeast to grow and also diminishes the body’s ability to fight infection.

Diabetes can also cause a higher glucose content in the urine – another extremely suitable place for yeast to thrive.

6. Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal

Wounds or sores that take more than a few weeks to heal often indicate diabetes.

High levels of blood glucose caused by diabetes can, over time, affect the nerves (neuropathy) and lead to poor blood circulation.

This makes it hard for blood – needed for skin repair – to reach areas of the body affected by sores or wounds.

This can cause them to remain open and unhealed for months, increasing the risk of fungal infections, bacterial infections and gangrene.

7. Blurred vision

You may not know this, but type 2 diabetes can cause vision loss.

And according to experts, it is the leading cause of vision loss among adults aged 20 to 74.

If the disease is left uncontrolled it can alter the blood in the retinal blood vessels – the blood vessels in the eyes – which can cause them to leak.

If the blood vessels begin to leak it can cause a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss among sufferers.

Diabetes has also been linked to cataracts and glaucoma.

Diabetes UK have recommended using there Know Your Risk tool if you think you might be at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Those most at risk of type 2 diabetes

The NHS has revealed that you’re more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are over 40 (or 25 for south Asian people)
  • Have a close relative with diabetes (such as a parent, brother or sister)
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are of south Asian, Chinese, African Caribbean or black African origin (even if you were born in the UK)

There are currently 3.9 million people living in the UK with diabetes – and 90 per cent of those with type 2.

However, Diabetes UK believe this figure is closer to 4.8million if you include those who are yet to be diagnosed.

And they predict this figure will have surged to 5.3million by 2025.

With this in mind, they are urging the Government to tackle childhood obesity – one of the greatest risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is an urgent public health crisis

Chris Askew, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK

Chris Askew, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “Type 2 diabetes is an urgent public health crisis, and solving it depends on decisive action that’s led by government, supported by industry and delivered across our society.

“More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes − and the accompanying risk of developing devastating complications − could be prevented or delayed by supporting people to make healthier choices.

“This includes mandating industry to make food and drinks healthier and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.

“At the same time, we need to help people understand their personal risk of type 2 diabetes and find tailored clinical support to reduce it.

“The Government promised to tackle obesity, and it’s time for them deliver on this promise, and lead the way in affecting real change.

“Preventing type 2 diabetes, and the development of devastating complications for those living with the condition has to be a public health priority.”

Find out more about the risk factors of type 2 diabetes and what you can do to reduce your risk here.

Healthy breakfast recommendations from someone who’s combatting type 2 diabetes


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