New alarming figures have revealed that 1 in 5 children and teenagers with diabetes across England and Wales develop serious complications before they are even diagnosed with the disease.
Findings from the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit (NPDA), published today by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), show that the complication, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) affects 20% of young people who remain unaware of their condition.
The audit identified 25,199 children and young people under the age of 25 with diabetes who are cared for in 177 paediatric centres across England and Wales in 2011-12. Of those, 6,210 individuals were admitted to hospital, and roughly half of all hospital admissions were related to DKA and hypoglycaemia, both of which can be life-threatening if left undiagnosed or untreated.
Girls with diabetes aged between 10-19 years were found to have the highest rates of DKA, which is caused by lack of insulin in the body, as well as higher rates of DKA-related hospital admissions (11.6% and 8.9% of females with diabetes in England and Wales respectively compared to 7.7% and 5.0% for males).
Dr Justin Warner, RCPCH’s clinical lead for the NPDA and a consultant in Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, said the audit highlights the need for better diabetes awareness – particularly the symptoms of type 1 diabetes – among parents, paediatricians and other healthcare professionals.
“Managing diabetes in childhood is a complex problem requiring close collaboration and partnership between the child, family and healthcare teams,” he commented. “An admission to hospital for an acute complication, such as DKA, in a child with established diabetes, can be deemed as a failure of that partnership.
“Understanding the mechanisms which may lead up to an acute admission in a child with diabetes is often difficult, particularly in teenagers who are being encouraged to take on responsibility for their own care.
“The public and healthcare professionals who come into contact with children need to be more aware of the symptoms of diabetes, allowing earlier diagnosis and speedy treatment so as to avoid complications of DKA at diagnosis.”

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