Doctors sound alarmDoctors are calling for better diabetes awareness as almost 1 in 5 children with diabetes develop a dangerous complication known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)– a lack of insulin in the body – before they are officially diagnosed with the condition.

Furthermore, rates of DKA, in those already diagnosed with diabetes remain high and are highest in females aged between 10 and 19 in England and Wales, according to a report from the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit (NPDA), published today by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

If left untreated, DKA can cause mental confusion, rapid heartbeat and breathing, sickness and unconsciousness and can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated urgently.

Dr Justin Warner, RCPCH's Clinical Lead for the NPDA and a Consultant in Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, said: "Managing diabetes in childhood is a complex problem requiring close collaboration and partnership between the child, family and healthcare teams. An admission to hospital for an acute complication, such as DKA, in a child with established diabetes, can be deemed as a failure of that partnership."

"Understanding the mechanisms which may lead up to an acute admission in a child with diabetes is often difficult, particularly in teenagers who are being encouraged to take on responsibility for their own care."

 Further reading: 'Concerns over rise in child diabetes' 

The audit which was commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP), identified 6,210 hospital admissions out of 25,199 children and young people under the age of 25 with diabetes for 2011-12 who are cared for in 177 paediatric centres across England and Wales.

The audit also found that:

  • About half of all hospital admissions in children with diabetes are related to acute complications including DKA and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
  • The number of admissions for DKA remain high but have improved since 2010-11
  • Females tend to have higher rates of DKA admissions than males: (11.6% and 8.9% of females with diabetes in England and Wales respectively compared to 7.7% and 5.0% for males)
  • Nearly 1 in 10 admissions to hospital of children and young people with diabetes is as a result of a hypoglycaemic episode.

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