Children under the age of five have the highest risk of death due to type 1 diabetes being diagnosed too late, new figures show.
A report called the 2017 National Paediatric Diabetes Audit found that one in four UK children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes so late that they develop diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication.
The audit, which collected data between 2012 and 2015, also identified increased type 1 diabetes prevalence in the UK as well as subsequent type 1 diabetes hospital admissions. However, the reason for this increased incidence is not yet fully understood.
Hospitalisation for DKA due to late diagnosis occurred in 23 per cent of new cases of type 1 diabetes in children and young people. Karen Addingto, UK Chief Executive of the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, says more needs to be done to reduce these figures.
“This report shows that too many children are developing diabetic ketoacidosis, which is often down to a lack of understanding of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. It is crucial that type 1 diabetes is identified early, to reduce the risk of DKA at diagnosis,” she said.
“To ensure diagnoses take place earlier we need to develop a greater understanding among both the public and healthcare professionals of the symptoms of type 1: increased thirst, going to the toilet often, tiredness, blurred vision and sudden weight loss.”
Children and young people in the most deprived areas of the UK were more likely to be hospitalised for either DKA or severe hypoglycemia. Girls and young women were more affected than males.
Children under five have a greater risk of death from DKA prior to diagnosis because type 1 diabetes typically progresses more quickly when it develops earlier in life. In adults, type 1 diabetes develops relatively slowly.
Type 1 diabetes can become dangerous in a short space of time in very young children. It is important, therefore, that symptoms are spotted early and a diagnosis is quickly obtained.
JDRF is currently funding a German study investigating whether DKA rates can be reduced through the introduction of new diagnosis standards, while a Swedish study called “The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young”, or TEDDY, is tracking 7,000 babies at risk of type 1 diabetes to assess associations between environments and development of the condition.

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