DIABETES is the fastest growing health threat in the UK and around 17,500 people in Dorset have been diagnosed with the disease.

But it is estimated that there are a further 11,000 local people who are unaware that they have diabetes.

And with the increasing prevalence of diabetes, estimated to reach five million in the UK by 2025, the problems of diabetic foot disease looks set to continue to rise.

Dr David Coppini, who leads the diabetic foot service at Poole, is keen to raise awareness of the condition and its associated complications.

He says: “We are seeing more patients who present with foot and other complications even before the diagnosis of diabetes is made, so it is important for people to think about diabetes at an earlier stage.”

Dr Coppini explains that complications are caused by a combination of poor circulation and loss of sensation.

“The problem is they may lose sensation in their feet so if they walk on a pin or something, they don’t notice, their blood circulation isn’t good, so it gets infected and by the time they present it is infected and gangrenous. Although we have the best amputation rates in the south west – well below the national average, infections in the foot and bone are very hard to heal so it is a very tricky complication and the expenditure on treatment for foot disease, foot ulceration and amputation alone costs the NHS £600m.”

Patient Robert Cox, 60, from Poole, said he wasn’t aware of the complications when he was first diagnosed with the diabetes.

He is currently in Poole hospital having treatment for an ulcer on his foot, which according to his consultant Dr Coppini, was the size of an apple.

Mr Cox said: “I have had a lot of problems with my feet over the years. I just feel very lucky that we have this service available in Poole.”