Doctors warn of diabetes epidemic

TOP doctors last night warned of a diabetes epidemic sweeping the region and putting a major strain on health resources.Nearly all health trusts in Suffolk and Essex have reported major upsurges in the numbers of patients diagnosed with diabetes - with some recording increases of more than 50% in just three years.

TOP doctors last night warned of a diabetes epidemic sweeping the region and putting a major strain on health resources.

Nearly all health trusts in Suffolk and Essex have reported major upsurges in the numbers of patients diagnosed with diabetes - with some recording increases of more than 50% in just three years.

Leading doctors have branded the spiralling number of cases as an “epidemic”, and blamed obesity as a primary cause.

The revelation follows the launch of the EADT's campaign to raise awareness of understanding of the issues relating to obesity.


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In west Suffolk, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen from 5,051 in 2003 to 7,861 this year - an increase of 55% in three years.

In the Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT) area numbers shot up from 3,800 in 2003 to more than 5,000 this year.

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East Suffolk PCTs also saw a rise of cases from 8,200 in 2001/2002 to 10,941 in 2004/2005 - a hike of 37%.

Dr John Clark, consultant diabetologist and lead clinician at West Suffolk Hospital, said the rise in cases of diabetes was causing early deaths and taking up a big chunk of hospital budgets.

“Ten per cent of all spending is on patients with diabetes as it causes so many other problems,” he said. “Someone who is diagnosed with diabetes at 15 years old is likely to die at 50 years old and is going to experience a lot of bad health.”

Dr Duncan Fowler, at the diabetes unit at Ipswich Hospital, said: “More money is spent on those with diabetes as they are prone to more problems. This impacts greatly on the health service as treating the disease can be extremely expensive.”

Dr Amanda Jones, a public health director of the Suffolk East PCTs, blamed the large increase on new efforts to record all cases of diabetes on GP practice registers.

“There is undoubtedly a true increase in the prevalence of diabetes in the population - however, over the past five years, practices have made great efforts to record all people with diabetes into their diabetes registers.

“The 2001 figure was taken at a time when registers were not so complete.”

A spokesman for Diabetes UK said he welcomed any moves to raise awareness of the disease and to enhance screening and treatment for it.

In the Tendring PCT area, the most recent count showed there were 5,760 cases which amounts to 4.7% of the district's population.

As part of a bid to combat problems associated with diabetes, West Suffolk Hospitals Trust and Suffolk West PCT has launched an expanded eye-screening service in parts of Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

n Symptoms include increased thirst, frequently going to the toilet, extreme tiredness, weight loss, genital itching or regular episodes of thrush, and blurred vision.

n There are two types of diabetes: Type 1, which develops if the body is unable to produce any insulin and is treated by injections; and Type 2, which is linked with being overweight.

n People with diabetes have a higher chance of developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, circulation problems, nerve damage, and damage to the kidneys and eyes.

n Those most at risk of developing the disease are those with a family history of diabetes, people aged between 40 and 75, people of Asian or African-Caribbean origin, overweight people, and women who have given birth to a large baby.

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