UK 'has world's fifth highest child diabetes rate'
Wednesday 02 January 2013
The UK has the world's fifth highest rate of a type of diabetes in children, according to a health charity.
Diabetes UK says 24.5 per 100,000 children under 14 in the UK are diagnosed every year with Type 1 diabetes which, unlike the other main strand, Type 2, is not linked to lifestyle or obesity factors.
Of the 89 countries included in the charity's data, only Finland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and Norway have higher rates than the UK.
The UK rate is more than double that in France and Italy; and 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.
Type 1 diabetes, where the body does not produce insulin, can lead to serious illness and even death if it is not diagnosed quickly.
In the UK only 9% of parents are aware of its symptoms and a quarter of the 2,000 children a year who develop diabetes are only diagnosed once they are already ill, according to the charity.
It suggests the UK rate is so high as parents are unaware of the four main symptoms for Type 1 diabetes: frequent urinating; excessive thirst; extreme tiredness; and unexplained weight loss.
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said the charity also wants to highlight the need for good quality healthcare for children with diabetes. Currently only 6% of children with the condition are recorded as getting the eight checks suggested by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
Ms Young said: "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.
"But 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, and this is why children with Type 1 diabetes need to set off on the right path in terms of managing their condition well from the beginning. It is a tragedy that all too often this is not happening."
In the UK, around 3.7 million people have diabetes, with 2.9 million living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
As many as seven million people are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and, if current trends continue, an estimated five million people will have diabetes by 2025.
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