Up to 30,000 have undiagnosed diabetes
Up to 30,000 people in Ireland could be suffering from diabetes without knowing it.
And medical experts have warned that an additional 146,000 people could have pre-diabetes -- the grey area between normal blood sugar levels and the full-blown disease.
Details from a screening programme by VHI Healthcare warn of a "diabetes epidemic" in the coming years, due to poor standards of health -- including people taking little or no exercise, being overweight and having high cholesterol levels.
The programme examined more than 19,000 people and found that some 2,400 had either Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood.
Type 2 diabetes is more common than Type 1, which is an autoimmune disorder. People suffering from Type 1 must receive daily insulin injections.
Type 2 often hits people over the age of 45 and can be brought on by high fat diets and obesity, lack of exercise and high blood pressure.
It is easier to treat through proper diet and exercise and monitoring blood glucose levels.
Comparing these figures to the entire Irish population of 45 to 75-year-olds, the company said there was a potential 30,000 cases of undetected Type 2 diabetes and 146,000 cases of undetected pre-diabetes in Ireland.
"The findings speak for themselves, we are facing a diabetes epidemic in the years ahead which will have a major impact on healthcare funding and delivery unless we can take steps to tackle this immediately," medical director Dr Bernadette Carr said.
"Diabetes is a disease that can have serious impacts on health and quality of life yet some small simple steps can play a huge role in prevention."
The screening programme, which started in January 2009, found almost two out of every three people were overweight or obese and a similar number had high cholesterol.
One in four people had high blood pressure when they went to be screened. Another 4,000 people are expected to be screened for diabetes throughout the rest of this year.
A group of 1,300 people identified as high-risk will be re-screened to determine how their position has progressed.