A new international league table compiled by Diabetes UK has shown the UK has the world’s fifth highest rate of Type 1 diagnosis in children aged up to 14.
The league table, based on estimates from the International Diabetes Federation, shows that 24.5 per 100,000 children aged 0 to 14 in the UK are diagnosed with the condition every year. Of all the countries with data, only Finland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and Norway have higher rates.
The rate in the UK is over double that in France (12.2) and Italy (12.1). In Papua New Guinea and Venezuela, which have the joint lowest reported rates in the world, just 0.1 per 100,000 develop the condition a year.
Scientists do not fully understand why there is such wide variation but genetics is thought to play a role. What we do know is that, 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.
Just nine per cent of parents are currently aware of the 4 Ts of Type 1 diabetes symptoms: Toilet; Thirsty; Tired; and Thinner. 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.
Diabetes UK are campaigning to increase understanding that frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme tiredness and unexplained weight loss are all symptoms. We also want 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 argue that the UK’s high position in the league table should also highlight the need for good-quality healthcare for children with diabetes. Just six per cent 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 per cent of boys and 16 per cent of girls) are achieving recommended blood glucose levels.
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "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.
"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 that Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, and Thinner are all 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.
"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.
"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."
Posted 02/01/2013 by firstname.lastname@example.org