Aims: Little is known about ethnic differences in the timely diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes mellitus (Type 1 DM). This study aimed to assess ethnic inequalities in the timely diagnosis of Type 1 DM, as indicated by a more adverse clinical condition at onset. In addition, we assessed whether these differences could be explained by differences in socio-economic status.
Methods: From a national register, we selected 3128 children aged < 15 years with newly diagnosed Type 1 DM. Ethnic differences in serum glucose, blood pH, bicarbonate, presence of ketonuria, level of consciousness, hydration status,and diabetic ketoacidosis were assessed by logistic regression. A measure of socioeconomic status based on postal codes was used as an explanatory variable.
Results: The risk of adverse clinical presentation was 1.5-2 times higher in non-Western immigrants than Dutch children, while Western immigrant children did not differ from Dutch children. Blood pH, bicarbonate level, and level of consciousness were lower in Turkish and Antillean children in particular. The adverse socio-economic position of immigrant children contributed very little to these differences in clinical presentation.
Conclusions: Non-Western children were likely to be sicker at first presentation of Type 1 DM, and thus diagnosis may have been delayed. These disparities were not accounted for by differences in socio-economic status. Possible explanations may be difficulties in recognition of symptoms, failure of GPs to take symptom reporting seriously and lack of awareness of the fact that Type 1 DM occurs more often in certain ethnic groups.