Thousands of people are living with undiagnosed diabetes in Greater Manchester, data suggests

Analysis of Government figures has revealed the scale of the issue in the city-region.

Thousands of people in Greater Manchester are living with diabetes but do not know it because it has not been diagnosed, data has shown.

Analysis of official data by our sister title NationalWorld has revealed more than 20,000 people across the city-region are thought to be in this position.

A leading charity says hundreds of thousands of people across England probably have diabetes but it has not officially been diagnosed.

Residents are being warned that this puts them at risk of developing serious health complications.

Local health teams also urged people to come forward if they have symptoms, saying routine care had been severely disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester?

The data suggests that there are probably around 22,900 people living with diabetes in Greater Manchester who have not had a diagnosis for the condition.

This figure was arrived at using analysis bringing together separate NHS and Government data.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) gave the number of people in their areas with each type of diabetes in 2020-21, while Public Health England estimated the number of people with all types of diabetes in 2021.

By putting these two data sources side by side, we can work out how many people are likely to have diabetes but be undiagnosed.

Our sister title NationalWorld has then rounded the estimated figure for each CCG to the nearest 100.

The highest numbers of people thought to have undiagnosed diabetes are in Stockport, Tameside and Glossop and Trafford CCGs, with around 3,900 in each.

There are also thought to be more than 2,000 people with undiagnosed diabetes in Wigan.

What has been said about the data?

Leading charity Diabetes UK, which estimates around 850,000 people are living with the condition but have not been diagnosed by medical professionals in England, says not having a formal diagnosis risks serious health issues.

It is thought that most of the people without a diagnosis will have type two diabetes, and the charity is raising awareness of the condition during Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week, which started on Monday (23 May).

Diabetics must constantly monitor their blood sugar to minimise complications

Senior clinical advisor Emma Elvin said: “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 the condition.

“Type 2 diabetes can sometimes go undetected for up to 10 years. While the symptoms can sometimes be tricky to spot in the early stages, it’s important to know the signs to look out for, and if you notice anything unusual, speak to your GP.

“We urge anyone concerned about type 2 diabetes to use Diabetes UK’s free online Know Your Risk tool. It could be the vital first step towards getting a diagnosis and getting the right care to stay healthy.”

Health chiefs in Greater Manchester also urged people to come forward if they have symptoms of diabetes.

Dr James Hider, GP and clinical lead for the Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire diabetes strategic clinical network, said: “As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, which deeply impacted Greater Manchester diabetes routine care, we are working hard to identify, monitor and support people with the condition and to see those people with most urgent need in all 10 localities of the city-region.

“We know fewer people were being diagnosed with diabetes during the pandemic but we are confident diagnoses will speed up in the coming months.

“We are also working together with clinicians across the health and care sector, patients, carers and voluntary organisations to continue promoting measures to help prevent the onset of diabetes directly with our communities.

“Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Symptoms to look out for including the need to wee more, particularly during the night, feeling thirsty and tired and losing weight without trying to.

“The condition is preventable for most people and there are changes you can make to reduce it. It is also possible for some people to put their type 2 diabetes into remission and help is out there to achieve this.

“Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your GP practice if you are concerned, they are open and there to help you.”

What impact can diabetes have?

Diabetes leads to almost 9,600 leg, toe or foot amputations every year across the UK, according to Diabetes UK.

It is also one of the country’s leading causes of preventable sight loss, with more than 1,700 people having their sight seriously affected by their diabetes every year.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1, and accounts for around 90% of all adult cases in the UK.

The lifelong condition is caused by problems with the production of insulin in the body and is often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

It causes the level of glucose in the blood to become too high and can lead to a variety of serious health conditions, such as heart disease or a stroke.

The longer people with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed, the higher their risk of serious complications.

Many people have the condition without realising as symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell, making the disease difficult to spot.

However, there are a few telltale signs to look for that could be a warning sign of type 2 diabetes.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Two common symptoms of high blood sugar - also known as hyperglycaemia - can be evident in the mouth. These include a dry mouth and a breath that smells “fruity”, according to the NHS.

Symptoms in the mouth could be a sign of diabetes (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)

Other symptoms that could be a sign of type 2 diabetes include:

  • peeing more than usual, particularly at night
  • feeling thirsty all the time
  • feeling very tired
  • losing weight without trying to
  • itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • blurred vision

Symptoms of hyperglycaemia in people with diabetes tend to develop slowly over a few days or weeks, and in some cases symptoms will not appear until blood sugar levels are very high.

Hyperglycaemia symptoms can also be caused by undiagnosed diabetes, so the NHS advises seeing a GP if this applies to you.

Who is most at risk of type 2 diabetes?

According to the NHS, you are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are over 40 (or 25 for south Asian people)
  • have a close relative with diabetes, such as a parent, brother or sister
  • are overweight or obese
  • are of Asian, African-Caribbean or black African origin, even if you were born in the UK

How is type 2 diabetes treated?

Most people will need medicine to control their type 2 diabetes. This will help to keep blood sugar levels as normal as possible to prevent further health problems and may need to be taken for the rest of your life.

A healthy diet and keeping active can also help to manage your blood sugar levels.

The NHS recommends eating a wide range of foods, including fruit, vegetables and starchy foods like pasta, and keeping sugar, fat and salt to a minimum. Around 2.5 hours of physical activity is also advised per week.

There is evidence that eating a low-calorie diet of 800 to 1,200 calories a day on a short-term basis (around 12 weeks) can help with symptoms of type 2 diabetes, and some people have found that their symptoms go into remission.

However, a low-calorie diet is not safe or suitable for everyone with type 2 diabetes, such as those who need to take insulin, so it is important to seek medical advice before going on this type of diet.

Research shows that for some people, combined lifestyle changes to their weight, diet and physical activity levels can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 50%.