14/06/2016 11:17 BST | Updated 15/06/2017 06:12 BST

The Diabetes Time Bomb

Diabetes Week 2016 is now in full swing, and we have been calling on people to share the realities of living with diabetes and join us in 'setting the record straight' as we tackle some of the myths and misconceptions around it.

A staggering four million people in the UK have diabetes, including an estimated 549,000 people who have Type 2 diabetes but do not know it as they have not been diagnosed. Alarmingly, these numbers are soaring. In the last year alone around 235,000 people have been diagnosed with the condition, and by the end of Diabetes Week a further 4,500 people will have discovered they have diabetes.

Yet despite the fact we are sitting on a diabetes time bomb there is still a real lack of understanding of the condition.

Too many people still hold the misconception that diabetes isn't that serious. In a survey we carried out recently, 53 per cent of people had no idea that diabetes can lead to devastating complications such as heart attacks and strokes. If people with diabetes manage their condition well they can absolutely live healthy lives, but left untreated, or poorly managed, it can lead to devastating complications and even early death.

It concerns us here at Diabetes UK that such misconceptions could lead to people making further false assumptions about the condition, and may be preventing people with diabetes to seek the right care and support they need to manage their condition.

This is why, during Diabetes Week, we have also been urging people to become diabetes aware, encouraging them to take some time out to learn the signs and symptoms of the condition. This is especially important for Type 2 diabetes which can take up to 10 years to be diagnosed, in contrast to Type 1 diabetes symptoms which tend to come on very rapidly.

People with diabetes will come across misconceptions and myths about their condition every day and we understand how frustrating and difficult this can be.

While both types of diabetes are on the rise, Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 per cent of all cases. Unlike Type 1 diabetes which cannot be prevented and is not linked to lifestyle, we know that the most significant risk factor for Type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese.

While you cannot do anything about other risk factors for Type 2 diabetes such as your age, ethnicity and family history, you can reduce your risk of developing the condition by maintaining or achieving a healthy weight.

Through supporting people to adopt healthy lifestyles we therefore have huge scope to change the outlook of Type 2 diabetes, in turn reducing the number of people suffering devastating but potentially avoidable complications and the financial burden diabetes puts on the NHS. This is why earlier in the year we partnered in the launch of Healthier You in England, the first ever national NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, along with Public Health England and NHS England, but there is still much more to be done to tackle the rising issue.

We recognise the role we have to play in educating the wider public about the reality of diabetes and improving their knowledge of it. We want people to understand that there are more than one type of diabetes, it's not just about over-consumption of sugar, and that it is a complex condition that needs to be taken seriously by the public, the NHS, and the government. Equally, we want people to know that with the right healthcare support and through managing the condition well, people with diabetes can live a long and happy lives.

That is why this Diabetes Week we have been calling on people to join us in raising awareness of the condition and setting the record straight as we tackle what has become the biggest health threat of our time.