The cost of treating diabetics and their complications - fully 3.7 percent of Israel's Gross Domestic Product - is expected to rise exponentially here and around the world, as the number of victims of this largely preventible chronic disease has increased sixfold in one generation and could double again by 2025. World Diabetes Day will be marked on Friday here and around the globe with efforts to educate the public about lifestyle changes to reduce their diabetes risk, diagnose it early and prevent complications once it has been diagnosed. This will be the second diabetes awareness day held under the aegis of the United Nations, whose World Health Organization recognizes diabetes - especially type 2 diabetes - as an epidemic that threatens to weigh heavily on healthcare systems in both developed and developing countries. In 1985, there were some 30 million diabetics around the world, with 177 million in 2000; the estimate in 17 years is 380 million. Some 400,000 Israelis have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, usually after the age of 40, and exhibit high blood sugar levels. A minority has been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease type 1; their lives depend on insulin injections. The symptoms are excessive thirst and urination, dry skin, slow healing of sores, fuzzy vision, weakness and tiredness, a sudden loss of weight, skin or urinary infections, or lack of feeling or mild pinprick sensations on the soles of the feet. People who have metabolic syndrome of elevated blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but not yet diabetes, can minimize the risk of the disease by losing weight, changing their diet and exercising regularly. According to the Israel Diabetes Association, a quarter of all diabetics are hospitalized in any one year. About 12% of all national health expenditure is allocated for the treatment of diabetics and their complications. However, balancing blood sugar levels through exercise, proper diet, medications and/or insulin injections can greatly reduce complications and health risks. On World Diabetes Day, Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center will offer a marathon of free testing between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the early diagnosis of diabetes, and advice on how to prevent it. Through November 20, the Israel Diabetes Association will send its mobile vans to public sites in various parts of the country for testing (subsidized by the Novo Nordisk pharmaceutical company). Complications of the disease include higher risk for heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, tooth loss and amputation of limbs. All year round, people can ask their doctors for tests to diagnose diabetes.