Hundreds of children with type 1 diabetes going undiagnosed: Diabetes UK

by Barbara Hewitt on May 14, 2014

In the UK hundreds of children are being rushed to hospital every year to be treated for serious complications of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes.

Yet the symptoms of type 1 diabetes are so obvious that there is no reason why any child should be not diagnosed quickly, according to the UK’s leading charity Diabetes UK.


A quarter of children with type 1 diabetes become seriously unwell before being diagnosed

Around 2,000 people under the age of 16 are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year in the country, but the charity says that many more cases are going unnoticed.

This could mean that up to 500 children a year learn they have type 1 diabetes only after developing a potentially fatal complication called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

A study of childhood cases of type 1 diabetes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that very young children and babies were far more likely to be diagnosed with the type 1 diabetes following the development of DKA.

DKA occurs when the body has no insulin to use, and switches to burning fatty acids and producing acidic ketones. It can cause severe illness, lead to swelling of the brain, and even result in death.

Diabetes UK chief executive Barbara Young said it was ‘appalling’ that hundreds of children were needlessly becoming seriously ill.

‘Symptoms of type 1 are so obvious and pronounced that there is no reason why every child with the condition cannot be diagnosed straight away. But the stark reality is that a quarter of children with type 1 diabetes become seriously unwell before being diagnosed. We need to bring this appalling situation to an end,’ she added.

The major signs of type 1 diabetes include going to the toilet more often than normal, extreme tiredness, increased thirst and a thinner body caused by unexplained weight loss. These symptoms are often referred to as the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes.

The typical symptoms of DKA include dehydration, nausea, confusion, and deep laboured breathing.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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