WIGANERS are being encouraged to seek medical help for the symptoms of diabetes as quickly as possible as the number of people with the disease continues to rise.
The number of diabetic people living in the UK recently passed three million for the first time, and as many as 850,000 could also be living with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
The latest figures show around 16,000 Wiganers are diabetic, and health chiefs now want people who have just been diagnosed or think they may be suffering from the disease to ensure they seek advice before damage to the body becomes irreparable.
The authors of the national report, leading charity Diabetes UK in partnership with supermarket giant Tesco, warn that more help needs to be offered to people with Type 2 diabetes because the increasing numbers of people with the disease risk swamping the NHS with unsustainable costs.
Wigan health officials are also urging people to ensure they contact GPs in the early stages when the disease can be managed through diet and exercise, rather than waiting until it develops further and requires insulin injections or major operations.
Dr Tim Dalton, local GP and chair of Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (pictured) said: “Diabetes is usually associated with high sugar levels in the blood which causes damage to the lining of blood vessels everywhere around the body.
“So we need to think of diabetes as a disease that affects the whole body.
“The longer the high sugar levels remain unchecked the more damage is being done to the heart, kidneys, eyes and blood vessels supplying the brain and limbs.
“This damage builds up gradually over the years, often without causing symptoms, or symptoms which patients may not discuss with their doctor at an early stage.
“It is so important that people with diabetes take control of their disease and don’t wait for major problems to occur.”
Symptoms of diabetes can include feeling excessively thirsty, needing to pass water frequently and regularly developing skin infections.
Free NHS health checks are available to people over 40 years old that will detect diabetes at an early stage under the national Find and Treat programme.
Meanwhile, health experts said it was vital for Wiganers already diagnosed with diabetes, who make up around five per cent of the borough’s population, to attend regular check-ups with the health service.
GPs can also refer patients to a new six-month programme aimed at preventing or slowing down the onset of the disease.