New research from Diabetes UK has found that only a small percentage of the UK public are aware of how life-changing this condition can be.

Although the survey revealed that diabetes is not taken seriously by the UK public, evidence shows just how harmful this condition can be. Figures show:

  • there are 169 amputations each week because of diabetes, which means someone loses a leg, foot or toe every hour
  • people with diabetes are 32% more likely to die prematurely than people who don't have the condition
  • 12.3 million people in the UK are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes but the public is unaware of the devastating health complications.

The survey by Walnut Unlimited, which spoke to 1,000 people with and without a link to diabetes shows the extent of this lack of awareness. Only 2% of people spontaneously said a stroke was a complication of diabetes, 4% said kidney damage and 6% said heart disease.

Despite amputation and sight loss being prevalent diabetes complications, only one in four people (25%) said, unprompted, that they were linked to diabetes. Furthermore, the survey found that no one spontaneously knew diabetes could cause problems in pregnancy, only 2% knew diabetes could lead to a shorter lifespan, and only 4% knew it could lead to early death.  

The recent National Diabetes Audit (NDA) into complications and mortality shows that people with diabetes are 32% more likely to die prematurely than people who don't have diabetes, due largely to the health complications resulting from diabetes. 

Additional figures from Public Health England show there were 8,793 leg, toe or foot amputations a year on average between 2014 and 2017 which means 169 amputations each week, or 1 every hour. 

Similarly, more than 1,600 people have their sight seriously affected by their diabetes every year in the UK. This means around 30 people a week develop sight loss because of their diabetes. 

Diabetes is a significant health crisis, and it is on the rise. Analysis from Diabetes UK shows that the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years. There are now 3.7 million people in the UK living with a diabetes diagnosis (90% have Type 2 diabetes) and around 12.3 million people are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes now affects more people than any other serious health condition in the UK – more than dementia and cancer combined. 

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Losing a limb, your eyesight or having a stroke is devastating and often life-changing. It is vital people with diabetes receive the right support from their healthcare teams to help them identify any early signs of a complication.

"Many complications can be prevented or delayed so it's incredibly important that people with diabetes are vigilant and contact their GP as soon as possible if they have any concerns.”