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Diabetes screening could detect 000s

Screening for diabetes could pick up many thousands of undiagnosed cases ever year, a small survey carried out at St Mary's Hospital in London has suggested.

Five hundred patients, all over 40, attending St Mary's A&E unit were randomly selected to complete a questionnaire regarding risk factors for diabetes.

Of these, 13 people - 2.6% - were found to have Type 2 diabetes. They were previously unaware of their condition. Extrapolating these findings, the researchers estimate over 500 new cases of Type 2 diabetes could be diagnosed at the hospital each year. This suggests a national annual total in the thousands.

Screening also identified people (4.6%) who did not have diabetes, but who had a higher than normal blood glucose levels which put them at increased risk of developing the condition.

It is estimated that there are up to one million people in the UK who have diabetes but do not know it. Type 2 diabetes can easily go undiagnosed for ten years or more with the result that many people already have complications by the time they are diagnosed.

Groups at high risk of diabetes include white people aged over 40 and people from black and minority ethnic groups aged over 25 who are overweight or who have a family history of diabetes.

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive at Diabetes UK told the BBC: 'Screening the general population would be a waste of resources. However, a targeted screening programme of people who are at high risk of coronary heart disease, are overweight or have a family history of heart disease or diabetes, should be considered. We also recommend that GPs test their patients who fall into these risk categories. The time for delays is over. The NHS needs a programme for early identification targeting those at increased risk of diabetes.'

Page created on December 12th, 2005

Page updated on December 1st, 2009