The number of cases of diabetes in the UK has topped five million for the first time amid rising levels of obesity.
Diabetes UK said that the nation is in a “rapidly escalating diabetes crisis” as the figure reached an all-time high.
It said that almost 4.3 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated 850,000 are living with the condition but have not yet been formally diagnosed.
Around nine in 10 cases of diabetes are type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to being overweight or inactive.
The condition causes the level of sugar in the blood to become too high.
Diabetes UK said that it is worried that the high numbers of people who are overweight or obese – around 64% of adults in England – is translating into an increase in cases of type 2 cases.
The charity said that the condition is becoming increasingly common among those under the age of 40 and more prevalent in areas where there are higher levels of deprivation.
It said the risk factors of type 2 diabetes are “multiple and complex” and include age, family history, ethnicity, as well as being overweight or obese.
The charity has called for the Government to make diabetes “central” to its forthcoming major conditions strategy to help prevent cases and support people at high risk of disease.
Without proper care and support, people with diabetes can suffer serious side effects including sight loss, amputations, strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Diabetes is serious, and every diagnosis is life changing.
“It’s a relentless condition, and the fear of serious complications is a lifelong reality for millions of people across the UK.
“These latest figures show we’re in the grip of a rapidly escalating diabetes crisis, with spiralling numbers of people now living with type 2 diabetes and millions at high risk of developing the condition.
“But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right care and support, cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission. What we need to see is the will, grit and determination from Government and local health leaders to halt this crisis in its tracks and improve the future health of our nation for generations to come.”
The charity encourages people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes including, needing to urinate a lot, being thirsty, fatigue and losing weight without trying.
The public is also urged to use the Diabetes UK’s free, online Know Your Risk tool on the charity’s website.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme – the largest programme of its kind in the world – has helped over 18,000 people avoid type 2 diabetes through expert advice on healthy eating and exercise.
“As previously announced, our Major Conditions Strategy will cover type 2 diabetes and help to reduce pressure on the NHS, and we’re helping people make healthier choices by restricting the location of foods high in fat, salt or sugar and introducing calorie labelling on menus.”