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UK has fifth highest rate of type 1 diabetes in children, new figures show

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f22 (Published 03 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f22
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

The United Kingdom ranks fifth of 88 countries in the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children, a new analysis has shown.

A league table compiled by the charity Diabetes UK from data from the International Diabetes Federation shows that each year 24.5 in every 100 000 children aged up to 14 years are given a diagnosis. Only Finland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and Norway have a higher incidence.

Top 10 countries by incidence of type 1 diabetes in children aged up to 14 years

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The UK rate was more than double that of France (12.2 diagnoses in every 100 000 children) and Italy (12.1). The lowest reported rates were in Papua New Guinea and Venezuela, where just 0.1 diagnoses were made per 100 000 children.

The charity’s table lists the 88 countries with available data on the incidence of type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes UK said that it was vital that people in the UK were aware of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, given its high incidence. It warned that just 9% of parents were currently aware of the “four Ts” of type 1 diabetes symptoms: toilet (frequent urination), thirsty (excessive thirst), tired (extreme tiredness), and thinner (unexplained weight loss).

It said that this lack of awareness was one of the main reasons why a quarter of the 2000 UK children a year who developed diabetes were given a diagnosis only once already seriously ill.

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.

Young added, “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.”

Kamlash Kunti, professor of primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at the University of Leicester, said that some of the variation could be attributed to the way that cases were classified. He said, “We know there are some people in the age range 10-14 who may have type 2 diabetes but are classed as type 1. If your case definition is not tight, then you can get these discrepancies.”

He added: “It [the UK rate] is in line with all other developed countries that we would compare ourselves to. There’s not a huge difference between our rate and the US, Australia, and Canada.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f22