Home Health & Wellness Decades-Long Trial Proves Early Treatment Slashes Diabetes Deaths, but How Do We Identify Killer Condition?

Decades-Long Trial Proves Early Treatment Slashes Diabetes Deaths, but How Do We Identify Killer Condition?

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More than four decades of research by the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) have found controlling blood glucose early with insulin and drugs led to 10% fewer deaths long-term. It also significantly reduced the risk of related conditions such as heart attacks, vision loss and kidney failure.

The findings, released this week, come on the heels of a separate government report issued earlier this year that revealed one million Brits are likely to have undiagnosed diabetes, and at least 5.1 million of us are prediabetic. Many of those affected will be young, of average weight, and entirely without symptoms. That’s why taking a simple blood test is essential, says a leading expert.

The UKPDS trial examining early treatment of type 2 diabetes began back in 1977 and is one of the longest-such trials ever to have been staged. Scientists involved in the trial say the findings are “remarkable” and prove the vital importance of early diagnosis.

However, the results have led one expert to voice concern about the number of people who may not be receiving this vital early treatment. Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), clinical lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: “Type 2 diabetes develops because the body can’t regulate blood sugar levels. Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is often diagnosed in childhood and not linked with age or being overweight, type 2 diabetes can strike at any time of life.

“The Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently revealed that an estimated one million adults have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Alarmingly, 50% of cases in people under 44 are likely to go undiagnosed.

“In 2019, there were almost 14,000 diabetes-related deaths in the UK. As the UKPDS trial emphasises, the earlier people are diagnosed, the better the outcome. In fact, the latest findings don’t end there. The results show that the legacy effects of implementing intensive blood glucose control straight after the diagnosis of diabetes continued to persist at least 24 years after the first phase of the trial ended in 1998.

“Over four decades, early intensive blood glucose control was shown to lead to 10% fewer deaths, 17% fewer heart attacks, and 26% fewer diabetic complications such as kidney failure and vision loss.

“Although millions of Brits are already being treated for type 2 diabetes, the ONS says around 30% of people who have ‘full-blown’ type 2 diabetes aren’t even aware of it. Ironically, the younger you are and the healthier you seem, the more likely it is that your diabetes will remain undiagnosed.

“The figures are even worse for prediabetics – people on the threshold of developing ‘full-blown’ diabetes. Prediabetes affects around 1 in 9 Brits, according to the ONS, which equates to approximately 5.1 million adults.

“It’s astonishing to think that both diabetes and prediabetes can be identified by a simple finger-prick blood test, yet 30% of diabetics and, potentially, millions of prediabetics remain undiagnosed. Prediabetes is an entirely reversible condition, and, thanks to the UKPDS trial, we now know that early treatment of even ‘full-blown’ type 2 diabetes means 10% fewer deaths.

“That’s why London Medical Laboratory has launched our ‘Give the Finger to Diabetes” campaign to identify undiagnosed cases of diabetes and prediabetes with a finger-prick blood test. Increased testing is vital to establishing who is among this at-risk population.”

London Medical Laboratory’s finger-prick HbA1c “Diabetes: Diagnosis and Monitoring” test is considered the gold standard in regular testing. It is used to measure the average level of blood glucose over the previous two to three months and to accurately monitor and diagnose diabetes. It can be taken at home through the post or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 120 selected pharmacies and health stores.

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