Many Parents Miss the Signs of Childhood Diabetes, New Study Finds

Type 1 diabetes effects children across the U.S., but parents don’t always recognize the warning signs, a new study suggests.

For those with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, the hormone that assists in regulating blood sugar used for energy by cells. Type 1 diabetes often begins in childhood, and between 5% and 10% of cases of diabetes are type 1.

The new study, which comes from Sweden and is published in the September issue of the journal Pediatric Diabetes, states that several warning signs of type 1 diabetes — thirst, excessive urination, fatigue, weight loss — are often not recognized as type 1 in children by primary care physicians.

Johan Wersäll of the University of Gothenburg led the study. His crew surveyed the caregivers of 237 children and teens under the age of 19. Each participant was admitted to the hospital with new-onset type 1 diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis between 2015 and 2017.

If diabetes goes untreated, a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can occur. “The only way to avoid DKA in patients with new-onset type 1 diabetes is to initiate insulin therapy urgently,” the researchers noted.

Researches discovered that 39% of parents thought their child might have new-onset diabetes before bringing them o the doctor.

The study looked at 112 cases in which parents brought a child they thought was sick to a primary care physician, only to end up in the emergency room within the next month.

The primary care physicians did detect type 1 diabetes symptoms in 64 of the cases and sent the child to hospital emergency care, according to the study8. In the 48 other cases, the referrals were delayed.

“Classic symptoms of thirst, polyuria [excessive urination], tiredness and weight loss were the most common in both groups,” they noted. In many cases, despite these classic symptoms, “urinary glucose [sugar] or blood glucose levels were not tested,” the report states.

In conclusion,, the study says, “as many as 43% of these children were not immediately referred to a pediatric emergency ward, indicating a substantial doctor’s delay. Improved knowledge and general awareness of diabetes symptoms among both caregivers and among medical professionals working in the primary health care sector are paramount in improving this situation and preventing diabetic ketoacidosis.”

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