New statistics revealed by Diabetes UK show that there are now 1.8 million people with diabetes in the UK – three per cent of the population, equivalent to the combined population of Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester.
This reflects an increase of 400,000 people in just eight years.
The figures are part of a report by Diabetes UK which predicts that the number of people with the condition will continue to rise as the population ages and becomes more overweight.
"The number of people with diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate," said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK. "This will continue to place a growing strain on local NHS services. The challenge now is to ensure that all people with diabetes are diagnosed early and treated effectively."
"Many of the worst effects of diabetes can be avoided. We cannot afford to wait until people have heart attacks or have problems with their sight or kidneys before they get the care they need."
Of the 1.8 million, almost 250,000 people have Type 1 diabetes and just over 1.5 million have Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that there are up to a million who have Type 2 diabetes but haven't been diagnosed yet.
Five per cent of the NHS budget or around £10 million a day is currently spent on treating diabetes and its effects. NHS spending on the condition is predicted to rise to ten per cent by 2011.
The report, Diabetes in the UK 2004, also looks at the impact of the long-term effects of diabetes, highlighting the extent to which these problems could be avoided with more effective treatment.
Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism--the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, the form of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body.
After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach.
When we eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into our cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.
Download the full report Diabetes in the UK 2004 in Word.