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One in four children with diabetes endures complication before diagnosis

One in four children with Type 1 diabetes experiences diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) before being correctly diagnosed with the condition, according to an article published today in the British Medical Journal.

DKA occurs when blood glucose levels are dangerously high. It can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and rapid breathing, and potentially lead to a coma if left untreated. It is vital that healthcare professionals, and parents, have the knowledge to be able to detect the signs of undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes so that vital insulin treatment can begin as quickly as possible and DKA can be prevented.

The research, led by Dr Julie Edge, Consultant Paediatric Diabetologist at Oxford Children’s Hospital, also shows that one in three (30 per cent) of newly diagnosed children has had at least one related medical visit prior to diagnosis, suggesting the condition is being missed by doctors. In addition, 35 per cent of children under five have DKA at diagnosis.

Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at Diabetes UK said: "With around 2,000 children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year, it’s worrying that a quarter of children will have only been diagnosed through DKA. DKA must be treated in hospital and for children and their parents, a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes is frightening enough, let alone the manner in which the diagnosis happened. This research highlights the need for more awareness of diabetes symptoms if we want to reduce the numbers of children being rushed to hospital."

Symptoms of diabetes

  • passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  • increased thirst
  • extreme tiredness
  • unexplained weight loss
  • genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
  • slow healing of cuts and wounds
  • blurred vision
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