Campaign call as diabetes cases up 7,000 in Wales
Campaigners claim the Welsh government is not doing enough to prevent a growth in Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes UK Wales national director Dai Williams said "a massive awareness campaign as a matter of urgency" is needed to raise awareness about the disease.
The charity said numbers diagnosed with diabetes in Wales increased by 7,000 in the last year.
The Welsh government said it had set up an expert group to tackle the disease.
The rise means 160,533 people in Wales - one in 20 - are now diagnosed with diabetes.
Research shows the figure could reach 250,000 by 2025 and the disease is costing the NHS in Wales £500m each year.
Diabetes expert Dr Jeffrey Stephens from Swansea University said an increase in obesity and the shift from industrial and agricultural working towards more sedentary desk-based employment was to blame.
Mr Williams told BBC Wales: "The Welsh Government must have a massive awareness campaign as a matter of urgency.
£500m a year
Eirian Jones, 42, from Pencoed, Ceredigion, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last year.
He said: "It came as an enormous shock.
"We had diabetes in the family- my father was diabetic- but it was something I was expecting later on in life, not at my age.
"Looking back, I was eating far too many sweet things and could have taken steps to reduce the risk.
"At the time I was very tired and in the evenings I would fall asleep in front of the TV."
After being sent on an awareness course, he has cut down on biscuits and cakes and is more aware about food labels and the dangers of the disease.
He agrees a concerted campaign is needed to raise awareness.
"If you want to find the information you can but the way it is presented isn't very clear and doesn't enable people to make full and proper choices," he said.
"We need people to understand that Type 2 diabetes is dangerous and they are living in the middle of an epidemic.
"The Welsh government manages to do it with something like swine flu, which thankfully didn't happen, but this is an epidemic that's already upon us and is costing a fortune in terms of money and health.
"Treating diabetes and its complications is already costing the Welsh NHS around £500m a year, 10% of its annual budget, and this massive cost will continue to spiral if more is not done to prevent people developing Type 2 diabetes."
He said that plans to screen the over-50s for diabetes as part of their annual health check by GPs were "closing the door after the horse has bolted" as there were increasing cases of people in their 40s, 30s, 20s and even teens developing Type 2 diabetes.
About 80% of cases of Type 2 diabetes are connected with obesity, he added.
Dr Jeffrey Stephens, a reader in diabetic medicine and a consultant physician at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, said the prevalence of diabetes at 5% was higher in Wales than in the UK but that could be down to it being identified more quickly.
He said: "We know that obesity and a BMI (Body Mass Index) of greater than 30 increases the risk and about 20-25% of the population is obese.
"We also know that lifestyles have changed over the last 20-30 years and there's the concept of calorie pollution and Wales developing into a fast food nation.
- More than 29,000 people in Wales diagnosed since 2007
- Around 90% of people with the condition have Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to being overweight and having a large waist
- In many cases, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet
- Risk factors include being aged 40 or more, or 25 or more for South Asian or black people, having a close family history of the condition, being overweight and having a large waist.
- Symptoms include urinating all the time especially at night, increased thirst, extreme tiredness, unexplained weight loss, and blurred vision.
Source: Diabetes UK
"On a more positive note I think we're much better at identifying diabetes. Previously we used to talk about a period of ten years between having diabetes and it being diagnosed but now a lot of screening goes on in primary care and in pharmacies."
The Welsh government said it would continue to invest in raising awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
"An expert group was established earlier this year to look at what further work is required to ensure high-quality diabetes services from GP surgeries to hospital-based care," a spokesperson said.
"The health minister will shortly be considering initial options for delivering health checks for people over 50 and we will be working closely with the health sector organisations such as the BMA, Community Pharmacy Wales, GPC Wales (the BMA GP committee), as well as the local health boards in developing our proposals."