Seven red flags of killer condition that can develop unnoticed for years

Woman drinking in her house
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)


In our busy lives it can be easy to write off many aches, pains or feeling tired or hungry as just being part of life. But there are times you need to take action as many of these can be a sign of something more sinister.

Around 4.4m people in the UK are diagnosed as having diabetes. However experts believe this is much lower than the real figure with hundreds of thousands of people unknowingly living with the condition.

According to Diabetes UK it is thought another 1.2m could be living with type 2 diabetes but who are yet to be diagnosed. And the figures are increasing with those registered as having diabetes in 2022-23 are up by 167,822 from 2021-22.

There are two types of diabetes - type 1 and type 2. While type 2 is the most common around 8% of people with diabetes will have type 1.

Type 1 happens when your body fails to produce enough insulin - a hormone which controls blood glucose (sugar) levels. This needs to be managed by taking insulin daily - usually via injection.

Type 2 diabetes is also caused by a problem with insulin and is often linked to being overweight, inactive or having a family history of the condition. And while serious this too can be managed however this is usually by changes in diet and often medication.

But what are the signs of diabetes? According to the NHS it isn't always obvious. It says: "Many people have type 2 diabetes without realising. This is because they may not always notice any symptoms."

Symptoms of diabetes

The NHS outlines seven things to watch out for. These are:

  • peeing more than usual

  • feeling thirsty all the time

  • feeling very tired

  • losing weight without trying to

  • itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush

  • cuts or wounds taking longer to heal

  • blurred vision

Am I at risk?

You're more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are over 40 years old, or over 25 if you're from an Asian, Black African or Black Caribbean ethnic background

  • have a close relative with diabetes (such as a parent, brother or sister)

  • are overweight or living with obesity or are not very physically active

  • are from an Asian, Black African or Black Caribbean ethnic background

The Know Your Risk tool from Diabetes UK can help you find out your risk. You can enter information including your ethnicity, age, height, weight and waist measurement, and it will give you an assessment of your personal risk of developing type 2 diabetes and advice about next steps.

When should I see a GP?

  • you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes

  • you're worried you may have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes

You'll need a blood test, which you may have to go somewhere else for, such as your local health centre or hospital, if it cannot be done at your GP surgery. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better. Early treatment reduces your risk of other health problems.