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December 2020

Diagnosis of T1D dangerously delayed in 51% of children

Diabetes UK has warned parents not to delay seeking medical help if their child develops symptoms of type 1 diabetes, as new data reveals up to a fifth of diagnoses may have been delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

If left untreated, symptoms of type 1 diabetes can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a potentially life-threatening condition that requires hospital treatment.

Data published by the UK Association of Children’s Diabetes Clinicians shows that between March and June 2020, 51% of children and young people were only diagnosed once they had developed DKA, and over half of these had severe DKA.

In the 88 diabetes units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that completed the survey, 20% of type 1 diagnoses were delayed, with ‘fear of Covid-19’ (40%), GP access (22%) and misdiagnosis or symptoms not being recognised (17%), among the reasons cited. Dan Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said: ‘It’s very concerning that many children and young people are not being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes until their symptoms become severe.

‘It’s crucial that nurses are armed with the diabetes health information they need to be able to spot the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes and ensure timely referrals. Anyone – adult or child – can develop type 1 diabetes, and a quick diagnosis and early treatment are vital to avoiding serious complications.’

What are the 4Ts?

Toilet: Going to the toilet a lot, bed wetting by a previously dry child or heavier nappies in babies

Thirsty: Being really thirsty and not being able to quench the thirst

Tired: Feeling more tired than usual

Thinner: Losing weight or looking thinner than usual

Practice Nurse 2020;50(10):7