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Blood glucose meter used to check sugar levels of diabetic patient. John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images

One in three Irish families affected by diabetes

As it launches its Know Your Numbers campaign, the Diabetes Federation of Ireland has described the situation as a “national crisis”. There are an estimated 30,000 people with undiagnosed diabetes in this country.

ONE THIRD OF people in Ireland have a family member with diabetes, but 43 per cent of Irish people have never been tested for the disease.

That’s according to the Diabetes Federation of Ireland, which has released figures from a new study that also showed one in five people (21 per cent) have a family member with Type 2 diabetes and overall, three in four people (77 per cent) know someone who has diabetes.

Professor Seamus Sreenan, consultant endocrinologist and medical director of Diabetes Federation of Ireland, said:

We have been saying it for years, but these figures really bring the message home – diabetes is everywhere in Ireland. It’s in urban and rural communities, in rich areas and less well-off areas. We’re facing a national crisis.

The figures were released to coincide with a new Know Your Numbers! campaign, which promotes awareness of an important change to the HbA1c clinical measurement for diabetes that will come into effect on January 1, 2012.

The campaign is a joint initiative between the Diabetes Federation of Ireland, healthcare company Sanofi, the Health Service Executive, and the Irish Pharmacy Union.  HbA1c measures how well your diabetes has been controlled in the previous two to three months.

The Know Your Numbers! campaign aims to help people with diabetes minimise their risk of developing a complication related to their condition.


Nine out of 10 (89 per cent) people with diabetes say developing a complicating illness as a result of their condition is their biggest fear.

But though 46 per cent of people in Ireland recognise that uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness, only 16 per cent  know it can cause kidney problems and just 18% know it can lead to amputation.

In Ireland, half of all lower limb amputations (50 per cent) carried out between 2005-2010 were linked with diabetes.

Risk factors

The study showed that people in Ireland are aware of some of the risk factors for diabetes: being overweight (95 per cent), not getting enough exercise (72 per cent), but awareness levels fall on another risk factor – being over 45 (46 per cent).

Professor Sreenan said:

In reality there are a lot of symptoms for diabetes – but in some people they may not present for years or it may be just as a thirst or repeated infections. What you have to bear in mind is that, on average, there is a 12-year period between the onset of Type 2 diabetes and its diagnosis. This fact, and the wide range of symptoms make it difficult for people to spot a problem and seek treatment early.

Testing for diabetes

There are approximately 30,000 people in Ireland with undiagnosed diabetes. Figures released last month suggest that 146,000 people in Ireland have undetected pre-diabetes and will have Type 2 diabetes within the next 5 years unless they take action.

The study shows that 43 per cent of people in Ireland have never been screened for diabetes, while 18 per cent say they have been screened only once.

It is estimated that one in eight Irish people over 60 years has diabetes, yet 21 per cent say they have never been screened for diabetes and a further 17 per cent say they have been screened only once.

Visit the Diabetes Federation of Ireland website>

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