It is one of those diseases that go undetected for a long time: diabetes. Type 2 diabetes does not cause any symptoms for a long time. That’s why it often goes undetected for many years. Often, the disease is detected when patients are hospitalized for another reason – for example, because of a heart attack that was promoted by the diabetes. Nevertheless, there are several signs that can indicate diabetes. When blood sugar levels are elevated, symptoms include frequent urination, thirst and dry, itchy skin. This is due to the blood sugar levels rising and the body trying to excrete excess sugar in the urine. The urge to urinate increases, and sufferers feel more thirsty.

Diabetes type 1 or type 2? What’s the difference?

A distinction is made between two types of diabetes. Type 1 is characterized by an insulin deficiency, which is normally detected in childhood. The more common form is type 2 diabetes, in which the body becomes less sensitive to insulin with increasing age. But let’s go a bit into detail:

Type 1 diabetes is to some extent hereditary and is caused by a malfunction of the immune system. Through this error, the immune system destroys the beta cells (islets of Langerhans) in the pancreas that normally produce insulin. As a result, there is a deficiency of insulin, as insulin secretion is initially reduced and later completely absent. Insulin lowers blood glucose levels by means of its “key function” of allowing glucose (blood sugar) to enter the cell from the blood. Due to the lack of insulin, cells cannot take up enough glucose, leaving too much sugar in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes, which often begins insidiously in adulthood. Here, the production of insulin in the body starts more slowly and the body reacts less sensitively to insulin. The latter is called insulin resistance. In the initial phase of type 2 diabetes mellitus, the pancreas increases insulin production to compensate for the insulin’s inadequate effect. As the disease progresses, the high insulin production cannot be maintained and the initial high insulin production continues to decrease. While there is a lot of insulin available at the beginning of this form of diabetes, insulin production decreases over the years, so that only little insulin is then available. Insulin resistance, however, remains. It often occurs together with other health problems, such as high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels.

Some numbers on diabetes in Europe:

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about 32.3 million adults were diagnosed with diabetes in the European Union in 2019, up from an estimated 16.8 million adults in 2000. An additional 24.2 million people in Europe were estimated to have diabetes but be undiagnosed in 2019 (IDF, 2019). The number of men with diagnosed diabetes has increased particularly rapidly since 2000, more than doubling from around 7.3 million in 2000 to 16.7 million in 2019. The number of women with diabetes has also gone up substantially, rising from 9.5 million in 2000 to 15.6 million in 2019, an increase of over 50% Men are more prone to develop diabetes because of biological factors and have to gain less weight than women to increase the risk of developing the condition.

Note: Data include people aged 20-79 with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The number of people with diabetes in 2000 has been estimated for some countries due to data gaps. Source: IDF Atlas, 9th Edition, 2019 and OECD estimates. Diagram: OECD

Diabetes is also more common among older people: 19.3 million people at the age 60-79 have diabetes across EU countries, compared with 11.3 million people aged 40-59 and only 1.7 million aged 20-39. While more men than women have diabetes in middle-age (between 40 and 59 years old), a greater number of women have diabetes after age 70 mainly because they live longer.

Note: Population with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Data are only available up to 79 years old. Source: IDF Atlas, 9th Edition, 2019. Diagram: OECD

Diabetes prevalence among adults (diagnosed and age-standardised) was 6.2% on average in EU countries in 2019. The rates varied from 9% or more in Cyprus, Portugal, and Germany to less than 4% in Ireland and Lithuania. The prevalence of diabetes appears to have stabilised in many European countries in recent years, especially in Nordic countries, although they have continued to go up slightly in Southern European countries and Central and Eastern European countries. These upward trends are partly due to the rise in obesity and physical inactivity, and their interactions with population ageing (NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, 2016).

Note: Age-standardised prevalence of population aged 20-79 with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The EU average is unweighted. Source: IDF Atlas, 9th Edition, 2019. Diagram: OECD

The global situation:

Globally, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980, according to the United Nations. The global prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7% to 8.5% in the adult population. This reflects an increase in associated risk factors such as being overweight or obese. Over the past decade, diabetes prevalence has risen faster in low and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

World Diabetes Day 2021-23: Access to diabetes care

100 years after the discovery of insulin, millions of people with diabetes around the world cannot access the care they need. People with diabetes require ongoing care and support to manage their condition and avoid complications. How can we address this major health challenge? Can we rethink how care for people with diabetes is provided?

Are you interested in more health topics?

Then we invite you to participate in our ELfR working group Health. You will find more information here.

World Diabetes Day
Post Disclaimer

The opinions on this blog are of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of ELfR.


Co-Founder of European Liberals for Reform Chairperson of ELfR Working Group Health ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee Member (2022-2023) Social Media & Digital Marketing Expert, Blogger Favorite Topics: Health, Society, LGBTQI

Post navigation

Leave a Reply