Girls in Birmingham with Type 1 diabetes have poorer blood glucose control than Brummie boys, according to new research presented at Diabetes UK’s Annual Professional Conference.
This could be putting them at greater risk of short-term diabetes complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which occurs when blood glucose levels are consistently high.
In the long term, poor diabetes management can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney failure.
The study, based on data submitted to the National Diabetes Audit, looked at 369 children with Type 1 diabetes at the Diabetes Unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital between May 2006 and April 2007.
It revealed that 23.8 per cent of boys up to the age of 18 achieved the recommended blood glucose targets (HbA1c) of less than 7.5 per centcompared to only 11.8 per cent of girls.
The research found the five to 11 age range showed the biggest disparity between boys and girls, with only 6.3 per cent of girls achieving the recommended blood glucose targets compared to 27.6 per cent of boys.
It also found that more girls up to the age of 18 (9.2 per cent) than boys (6.5 per cent) experienced episodes of DKA.
More research would be welcomed
“This study shows a significant and startling difference between boys and girls with Type 1 diabetes achieving their blood glucose level targets in Birmingham," said Peter Shorrick, Regional Manager for Diabetes UK West Midlands.
"We look forward to seeing more research to determine why this difference has occurred and to find ways of helping girls with Type 1 diabetes attain better diabetes control.”
Conducting more research to pinpoint causes
Dr Timothy Barrett from Birmingham Children’s Unit, who carried out the research, said: “It is interesting that boys of school age are better at controlling their diabetes than girls of the same age, especially as we expected the result to be the other way around. We are not sure exactly why this is the case but we are conducting more research to pinpoint any causes.
Good management linked to weight?
“One possibility is that good diabetes management is linked to weight, and that the more overweight a child, the worse their blood glucose level control. It is thought that obesity affects girls more than boys so this could very well be an important factor, although we did not detect obvious weight differences in this group.”
Type 1 diabetes in under-15s in the UK
In the UK there are about 20,000 children with Type 1 diabetes under the age of 15, with roughly an equal split between boys and girls.