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Getting the diabetes diagnosis right for everyone

Project summary

It’s not always easy to diagnose which type of diabetes a person has. This is because the symptoms and test results can overlap, particularly in people from some ethnic groups. In this project, Dr Shields will improve calculators used to get the diagnosis right in many more people with diabetes. 

Background to research

There are two main types of diabetes (type 1 and type 2) as well as less rarer genetic forms, such as MODY. It’s really important to diagnose the correct type of diabetes so that everyone gets the best treatment and care. But it can be difficult to work this out particularly in people from some ethnic groups and in people who have less common forms of diabetes.  

Researchers at the University of Exeter team have developed online ‘calculators’ that can help to diagnose if people are more likely to have MODY, type 1 or type 2 diabetes.  The calculators use information from blood tests and characteristics, such as a person’s weight and age. They’ve been shown to be accurate and helpful for thousands of people with diabetes already. 

But they’ve been developed using information mainly from white people who’ve had diabetes for a long time. We don’t know whether the calculators can also be successfully used in people from other ethnic groups and in those who’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes.  

Research aims

Dr Beverly Shield’s wants to develop and improve the ‘calculators’ to make sure they can help to accurately diagnose people from different ethnic backgrounds and people who have just developed diabetes. 

She will use information from seven existing studies of over 10,000 people with diabetes.  She’ll improve and then test the new calculators to see how well they diagnose different types of diabetes in newly diagnosed people and those from different ethnic backgrounds.  

She’ll then work with a software company to produce user-friendly versions of the new calculators so they can be used online and with smartphone apps. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This study could help doctors to improve the diagnosis of diabetes for more people. The right diagnosis will mean people get the correct treatment and care, and could prevent potentially life-threatening complications linked with misdiagnosis.  

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