The changing presentation of children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes mellitus

Pediatr Diabetes. 2001 Dec;2(4):154-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-5448.2001.20403.x.


Although it is known that the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) in childhood is progressively increasing, it is less clear whether the presentation of newly diagnosed DM is changing. The aim of this study was to establish whether any biochemical or clinical presentation parameters have altered over time. A retrospective study was performed comparing newly diagnosed children with DM in two 24 month time intervals, 8 yrs apart (1988-89 and 1995-96). Fifty-seven children were diagnosed with type 1 DM in 1988-89 and 70 children in 1995-96. At presentation, children born in the later cohort had a higher pH (p < 0.001) and lower serum glucose (p < 0.05). Although the frequency of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) was higher in the 1988/89 cohort (63% vs. 42% in 1995/96) the absolute number of children with DKA in each time interval was similar (33 subjects in 1988-89 vs. 30 subjects in 1995/96). Islet cell antibody (ICA) levels were very different between the two cohorts; higher antibody levels were found in the 1988/89 group (p < 0.01). DKA was also associated with higher ICA titres (p < 0.05). Hospital admission stay decreased from 6.5 DS to 3.4 DS over the 8-year period (p < 0.0001). At our institution, the presentation of children with type 1 DM is changing with many more children diagnosed before developing DKA. We speculate that a new environmental factor(s) may be responsible for the absolute increase in patients presenting without DKA, while older etiologies (both genetic and environmental) are responsible for the steady, unchanging number of patients with a more severe presentation. Greater awareness of diabetes in children is not the factor contributing to earlier diagnosis before DKA develops.