The number of people living with diabetes in Northern Ireland has soared by a third in five years to more than 80,000, new research has found.
The increase in diagnoses of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes means 4% of the region’s population now has a form of the condition, according to the data produced by Diabetes UK Northern Ireland.
The charity said its report on the growing prevalence of diabetes, titled State of the Nation, presented a “stark warning” to the health service.
Diabetes UK Northern Ireland national director Iain Foster said: “The State of the Nation report is a timely and important piece of work which highlights, not only that Northern Ireland has seen the biggest rise in people being diagnosed with diabetes compared to the rest of the UK but that there is a real difficulty in collecting data as Northern Ireland is not included in the National Diabetes Audit.
“Our State of the Nation report gathers limited local information and we have found that there are now over 80,000 people living with diabetes in Northern Ireland.”
The research found there had been a 33% increase in Northern Ireland of people living with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
The vast majority of people with diabetes - around 85-90% - have Type 2 - a condition that has been linked to risk factors such as obesity.
The charity found that there are currently 1,000 children and young people under 17 diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes - a condition that usually develops at a young age, is unpreventable and its causes remain largely unknown.
It is anticipated there will be more than 100 new diagnoses of Type 1 each year if the current trend continues.
“The challenges of diabetes care in Northern Ireland are beginning to be recognised by the health service and by the Assembly but what is needed is action,” added Mr Foster.
“33% is a huge increase and puts immense pressure on the health service with the potential to bankrupt it if diabetes is not managed and people living with diabetes do not get even the minimum level of healthcare that they should be receiving.
“It is not enough to shout from the sidelines ‘something must be done’ so instead we have outlined ways in which we think the situation could be helped, for example, working to enable access to available treatments including insulin pumps for both adults and children and integrating diabetes clinical databases to create an accurate diabetes register.
“We need short term action as well as long term planning and we look forward to continuing to work with our healthcare providers and the Health Minister (Edwin Poots) to ensure the voices of over 80,000 people living with diabetes are heard.”
Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. If not managed correctly, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can lead to more serious health conditions, such as blindness, lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke.
People with Type 1 diabetes can’t produce insulin - the hormone required to absorb glucose from the blood into the rest of the body.
Those with Type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn’t work properly. There are risk factors leading to the development of Type 2 diabetes, include being overweight, family history, age, and ethnic background.