A national type 2 diabetes screening programme should be introduced to help diagnose people earlier and prevent complications, researchers have said.

A team from the University of Exeter say they have discovered that people may have type 2 diabetes without any symptoms for many years before they are diagnosed.

When people do develop symptoms, which can include excess toilet trips, extreme thirst and tiredness, they are very often overlooked.

The research team took a series of blood samples from 200,000 people aged between 40 and 70 using the UK Biobank database. They found there were more than 2,000 undiagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes among those people.

The team presented their findings at this year’s Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).

Lead researcher Dr Katherine Young said: “As people can have type 2 diabetes for many years without symptoms, diagnosis may be delayed, increasing the risk of complications. Our study shows that population-level screening could identify cases of type 2 diabetes far earlier and potentially reduce complications.

“The identification of these patients for whom primary care records are available in UK Biobank gives us a unique opportunity to study the impact of this delay on the risk of developing complications in the future.

“While preliminary results suggest that delays in receiving a diagnosis for those with undiagnosed diabetes did not significantly impact diabetes-related complications in this group of people, further research is required to ascertain whether screening for diabetes in this age group would reduce diabetes-related complications.”

The study was published in the Diabetologia journal.

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