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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK


Warning over looming diabetes 'crisis'

Some type-2 diabetics end up reliant on insulin injections

Diabetes experts have warned that the costs of looking after sufferers could soar unless more is done to spot and treat the disease.

The first study looking at the financial impact of type-2 diabetes across Europe has concluded that health problems caused by the disease are set to cost billions to treat.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot control the level of sugar, or glucose in the bloodstream.

Nine in ten diabetics have type-2 diabetes, which usually develops later in life, unlike type-1, or juvenile diabetes, which can leave sufferers needing insulin injections from childhood, teens or twenties.

It can lead to damaged blood vessels, and is often not diagnosed until complications have set in.

The condition significantly increases the risk of suffering a heart attack.

[ image: Diabetics are at greater risk of heart attack]
Diabetics are at greater risk of heart attack
The British Diabetic Association (BDA) is calling for many more older people to be routinely screened for type-2 diabetes.

Simon O'Neill, head of diabetes care services at the BDA, said: "GPs should be encouraged to look for type-2 diabetes. The short term costs of treatment do outweigh the long term costs of not treating."

On average, a type-2 diabetic remains undiagnosed for seven years, by which time problems have already begun.

Numbers will rise

The BDA expects the number of type-2 diabetics to spiral in the future, due to a rise in obesity, which is linked to the disease, and an ageing population.

The Costs of Diabetes in Europe - Type 2 survey (CODE-2) looked at thousands of patients in eight countries.

It found that only 2.7% of the total amount spent on treating the condition was spent on oral medication to control the disease.

The costs of hospitalisation for complications of the disease accounts for between 30 and 65% of the total.

And drugs used to treat long-term complications, and as 'second-line' treatments once oral medication has failed, account for between 18 and 39% of costs, depending on the country surveyed.

In all, looking after all the needs of diabetics accounted for five percent of the total healthcare expenditure of each country.

Professor Massimo Massi-Benedetti, President of the International Diabetes Federation, said: "We are facing a potential crisis.

Blindness and kidney problems

"The key to improving the quality of life of people with type-2 diabetes and to reducing future costs is to address the long-term complications of the disease."

Although the most common complication of type-2 diabetes is an increased risk of coronary heart disease, it is also the most common cause of adult blindness, and can lead to renal disease and foot ulceration.

The idea of screening adults for type-2 diabetes is currently under consideration by the government's National Screening Committee, which may include measures in a forthcoming recommendations on screening for coronary heart disease.

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