Black children often fare worse when type 1 diabetes strikes and suffer from serious complications including vision loss, kidney failure, and severe circulatory problems. Unfortunately, the potentially dangerous signs of type 1 diabetes in kids are not always immediately recognized by primary care providers, new research suggests.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to make enough insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar used for energy by cells. Between 5% and 10% of cases of diabetes are type 1, which often first surfaces in childhood.
The Swedish study, published in the September issue of the journal Pediatric Diabetes, suggests that key signs of type 1 diabetes — thirst, excessive urination, fatigue, and weight loss — are often not diagnosed as type 1 diabetes in kids brought to primary care physicians.
The research was led by Johan Wersäll, of the University of Gothenburg. His team surveyed the caregivers of 237 children and teens under the age of 19. All had been admitted to the hospital with new-onset type 1 diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis between 2015 and 2017.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a potentially dangerous condition that can occur when diabetes goes untreated. It occurs when, starved of blood sugar, cells turn to burning fat to produce energy instead. A side effect of this is the dangerous buildup of chemicals in the blood called ketones. If left unchecked, this can trigger a coma and even death.
“The only way to avoid DKA in patients with new-onset type 1 diabetes is to initiate insulin therapy urgently,” the researchers note.
In the study, the investigators found that 39% of parents had suspicions of new-onset diabetes before they brought their child to medical care.
Wersäll’s group looked at 112 cases where parents had first brought a child they thought was