Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a young age means there is a higher risk of serious complications in later life, research says.
A new study compared adults, who had been diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 30, to people who developed type 2 diabetes after the age of 40.
The findings showed the people diagnosed earlier had increased severe neuropathy (nerve damage) and signs of diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease) than those who had had the disease for a similar amount of time but were diagnosed later.
The younger group also had a much higher risk of death than peers without diabetes, the 10-year study found.
Jencia Wong from the Diabetes Centre at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and the University of Sydney in Australia, who led the research, said: “Firstly, we know that it takes many years to develop complications in diabetes.
“Of course having type 2 diabetes at a younger age equates to a higher lifetime risk given the projected length of exposure to high glucose and other risk factors.”
Experts studied data taken from 354 people who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in adolescence and early adulthood with 1,062 adults in the other group who had the more typical onset between ages 40 and 50.
The overall risk of death was lower for those diagnosed younger, but diabetes had a stronger effect on that risk for the younger group.
The early diagnosis group had more than three times higher death rates which rose to six times higher when they were in early middle age.
The study team used the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Diabetes electronic database linked to the Australian National Death Index to track complications and deaths related to diabetes.
Both groups tended to have similar rates of metabolic syndromen, a constellation of traits including abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure that raise the risk of heart disease.
The US National Kidney Foundation said those diagnosed at a younger age had high levels of protein in their urine which is an indication of diabetic nephropathy.
The younger people also had more severe nerve damage than those diagnosed at an older age, the researchers reported in Diabetes Care.
Wong said: “Our hope is that this research will serve to highlight that type 2 diabetes in the young is a serious condition which should be recognised by treating clinicians as such and be managed accordingly.”

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