Type 1 diabetes in children not diagnosed early enough says leading charity

by Barbara Hewitt on January 3, 2013

Type 1 diabetes in children not diagnosed early enough says leading charity

Parents are being urged to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of type 1 diabetes as the number of children going undiagnosed rises. A UK charity has compiled a new international league table which shows that incidence of type 1 diabetes are increasing in a number of countries.

Based on estimates from the International Diabetes Federation, it shows that Finland has the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in children aged up to 14, followed by Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Norway and the UK. The other top ten countries are the United States, Australia, Kuwait, Denmark, and Canada, the table from Diabetes UK reveals. Papua New Guinea and Venezuela have the joint lowest reported rates in the world.

Scientists do not fully understand why there is such wide variation but genetics are thought to play a role although unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 is not linked to obesity or lifestyle. According to Diabetes UK, the UK’s high incidence of Type 1 diabetes in children means it is especially important that people are aware of the symptoms. Type 1 diabetes can lead to serious illness, and even death, if it is not diagnosed quickly.

The charity says that just 9% of parents are currently aware of the main symptoms of Type 1 diabetes – known as the four Ts: Toilet; Thirsty; Tired; and Thinner. It says that this is one of the main reasons a quarter of the 2,000 children a year who develop diabetes are only diagnosed once they are already seriously ill.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “My daughter is 6 and worries so much about me, I’m type 1, 46, and diagnosed 3 years ago. She wanted me to check her blood, so I did and it was 158. Now I’m worried.”

It is campaigning to increase understanding that frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme tiredness and unexplained weight loss are all symptoms. There is a need to ensure parents and carers understand that if a child has any of these symptoms then they need to take them to their GP urgently and insist on a test for Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes UK also says that just 6% of children with the condition are currently recorded as getting the eight checks recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – less than a sixth, 15% of boys and 16% of girls, are achieving recommended blood glucose levels.

‘We do not fully understand why more children in the UK are developing type 1 diabetes than almost anywhere else in the world. But the fact that the rate is so high here in the UK means it is especially important that parents know the symptoms,’ said Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK.

‘At the moment, poor understanding of type 1 diabetes symptoms is one of the main reasons that far too many children are already seriously ill by the time they are diagnosed, and this is why we need to raise awareness of the symptoms. Parents and carers also need to understand that if a child has any of these symptoms then they need to see a doctor urgently and be tested for type 1 diabetes,’ she explained.

‘The fact that the UK has a relatively high number of children developing type 1 diabetes also means it is vital that we are able to offer first class healthcare once children are diagnosed. Too many children are not getting the recommended checks and have high blood glucose levels, while another big issue is that young people are also being lost in the system when the time comes to transfer from paediatric to adult services,’ she said.

‘Type 1 diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to devastating complications and early death if not managed properly. This is why children with type 1 diabetes need to set off on the right path in terms of managing their condition well, right from the beginning. It is a tragedy that all too often this is not happening,’ added Young.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com 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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