Thousands of cases of type 1 diabetes are being diagnosed in middle-aged adults, with new figures showing that more than 1 in 5 people with the disease are over the age of 40 at the time of their diagnosis.
Data based on analysis from the National Diabetes Audit shows that of the 8,952 people who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011-2012, more than a fifth (2,035) were aged 40 and over when they learnt of their condition and of those, more than 500 were aged over 69.
The figures were revealed at the 2014 Diabetes UK Professional Conference and further highlight the fact that although type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children between the ages of 10 and 14 years, the autoimmune condition can develop at any age.
The announcement was made to coincide with new research from the Royal Gwent Hospital in Wales, which suggests that some people are not being diagnosed early enough because of a lack of awareness about late onset type 1 diabetes, putting them at greater risk of serious complications such as ketoacidosis before their condition is identified.
Lead researcher for the study, Dr Triveni Shekaraiah, said: “Type 1 diabetes is a very serious condition that predominantly develops in the young but our study shows that clinicians and the general public need to be aware of the possibility of the onset of Type 1 diabetes in older patients and that it is never too late for diabetic ketoacidosis.”
Simon O’Neill, Director for Health Intelligence and Professional Liaison for Diabetes UK, added: “This study highlights that Type 1 diabetes is not just a condition that strikes the young. We hear of reports where people who develop the condition later in life are only diagnosed once they are seriously ill.
“This is why it is really important that healthcare professionals do not rule out the possibility of symptoms being Type 1 just because the person is older. It is also important that the public understands that if they have any of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes that they need to go to see their GP.”

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