OVER a quarter of a million Brits don’t know they are living with a silent killer, new research has revealed.
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high, the NHS states.
It’s often referred to as a silent killer because in many cases, people don’t know they have the illness – as it can take a long time for symptoms to appear.
The condition, if left untreated, can lead to a risk of strokes, heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and amputation, Diabetes UK states.
Medics said that offering screening will help cut a person’s risk of complications linked to the disease.
Writing in Diabetologia, the experts said if every adult was offered the test, undiagnosed cases of the condition could be identified two years earlier.
Led by Dr Katie Young from the University of Exeter, the medics wanted to assess whether people would get a diagnosis faster if the blood test was routinely used in the NHS check – also known as a mid-life MoT.
They looked at data on people who had been given a HbA1c blood test when they signed up to the UK Biobank study.
This was then linked to GP records to see whether patients already had a diagnosis of diabetes.
Some 7.3 per cent of those who had the test had already been diagnosed with the condition.
Among 167,000 people who did not have a diagnosis of type two diabetes, around one per cent had undiagnosed diabetes.
Participants were tracked for a total of ten years and experts found that the average time to diagnosis was 2.2 years.
The medics said: “The findings support the use of HbA1c screening to reduce the time for which individuals are living with undiagnosed diabetes.”
They added that there are around 25 million adults between the ages of 40-70 in the UK who have not been diagnosed with the condition – but who are living with it.
This means up to 250,000 adults in this age group have undiagnosed diabetes which could be detected by HbA1c-based screening, they said.
Lucy Chambers, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, said the research provides clear evidence of delays in the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Earlier this month the charity predicted that of the 4.9million Brits living with diabetes, 850,000 may not yet even know they have it.
Lucy added that it suggests that tests of average blood sugar levels at population level could help to pick up cases of type 2 diabetes sooner than they otherwise would be.
“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 with type 2 diabetes.
“Type 2 diabetes can sometimes go undetected for up to 10 years, which can lead to serious complications.
“While the symptoms of type 2 diabetes can sometimes be tricky to spot in the early stages, it’s important to know the signs to look out for, including being thirsty, unexplained weight loss, tiredness and passing urine more often. If you notice anything unusual, speak to your GP practice,” she said.