People with Type 2 diabetes are going undiagnosed for more than two years before they get help, research shows.
A UK Biobank study of more than 200,000 people reveals an average wait of 2.3 years before diagnosis of the condition, that can lead to amputations and heart attacks.
There are an estimated five million Brits with diabetes, around a million of whom are thought to be undiagnosed. Nine in 10 have Type 2.
Common symptoms include going to the toilet a lot, always being thirsty, feeling more tired than usual and losing weight without trying.
Exeter University researchers used GP records to identify how long it took after a test showing dangerously high blood sugar levels before patients were officially diagnosed.
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Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, called it “clear evidence” of delays in diagnosis, adding: “Early diagnosis is the best way to avoid the devastating complications of Type 2 diabetes, and offers the best chance of living a long and healthy life.
“Type 2 diabetes can go undetected for up to 10 years, which can lead to serious complications.
“While symptoms can be tricky to spot in the early stages, it is important to know the signs to look out for. If you notice anything unusual, speak to your GP.”
More than 12 million Brits are thought to be at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
A quarter of people studied had still not received a diagnosis after five years of having elevated blood sugar levels. Being female, having a lower BMI and blood sugar levels were associated with delayed diagnosis.
The findings will be presented today at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference.
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Co-author Dr Katie Young, of the University of Exeter, said “population-level screening” could identify more cases and speed up treatment.
She added: “Unfortunately, screening initiatives such as the NHS Health Check have not been offered or taken up at their normal rate in the past year due to the pandemic.”