UK scientists have developed two digital risk calculators which could help doctors prescribe the best combination of medicine for people with diabetes.
The calculators, presented at this year’s Diabetes UK Professional Conference, could also be used to help prevent people being diagnosed with the wrong diabetes type.
“An accurate diagnosis of type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes is hugely important, as the treatment of these two conditions is very different,” said Dr Angus Jones, lead researcher based at the University of Exeter Medical School, which developed the risk calculators alongside scientists from Dundee, Oxford and Glasgow Universities.
“Unfortunately it can be difficult to tell what type of diabetes someone has when they’re first diagnosed, as there’s no single feature that confirms a diabetes type.”
The first of the risk calculators can predict how well someone’s blood glucose levels will be controlled by type 2 diabetes drugs: sulphonylureas and thiazolidinediones.
In a study of more than 70,000 people with type 2 diabetes and a further 2,000 who were treated with these drugs, the researchers developed the calculator based on simple characteristics that influence blood glucose levels, such as age, gender and Body Mass Index (BMI).
Jones and colleagues say that extending the calculator to include other medication, such as metformin, could be influential in helping doctors personalise treatment plans for people with type 2 diabetes.
The second risk calculator addresses the issue of misdiagnosis, but will also help doctors and patients assess best possible treatment options.
Jones explained: “By using a simple website programme or smartphone app called a clinical calculator, we can combine different features to give an accurate probability of whether a person has type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. This will help doctors and patients to decide on the best initial treatment and whether extra tests are needed.”
The diabetes clarification calculator, developed using information from 1,187 people with diabetes, uses clinical information such as age of diagnosis and BMI alongside risk factors of type 1 diabetes. This then helps to conclude whether a patient should receive insulin or not at diagnosis.
“We are currently testing this calculator in a large study of 1500 people newly diagnosed with diabetes, funded by the National Institute of Health Research,” added Jones.
“We hope research like this will help people with diabetes answer two important questions: what type of diabetes do I have and what treatment works best for me?”

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