Diabetes prevalence rising fast in children and young people, audit reveals

Rising numbers of children and young people are being diagnosed with diabetes and face severe complications despite improvements in care for the disease, doctors behind a national audit have warned.

Diabetes: child prevalence on the rise
Diabetes: child prevalence on the rise

The National Paediatric Diabetes Audit (NPDA) for 2013/14 revealed that 1,000 more children and young people in England and Wales were recorded as having diabetes compared with the previous year.

The rise took the total numbers of children and young people - those aged 0 to 25 years - with diabetes to 26,867, a 3.7% rise compared with the previous year.

The audit, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, shows that a ‘worryingly high’ number of children are showing earlier signs of serious complications of the disease.

But the proportion achieving excellent control of the disease was shown to have risen from 15.8% in 2012/13 to 18.4% in 2013/14.

Over a quarter (27.5%) of young people with diabetes have high blood pressure and as many as one in seven (14%) show early signs of eye disease, putting them at risk of blindness.

Regional variation

Children from non-white ethnic groups and those from deprived backgrounds were more likely to have poorer outcomes in terms of diabetes control. The disease was most prevalent in Wales and the south west of England.

Type 2 diabetes accounted for less than 5% of overall diabetes cases in children, but the audit revealed those with type 2 diabetes were seven times more likely to come from the most deprived areas of the country than the least.

The audit called for funding and resources to be directed towards closing up regional variation in care.

Dr Justin Warner, clinical lead for the NDPA, said building on close partnerships between doctors and patients was essential to improve quality of care.

‘On the one hand the picture is positive; the quality of care for children and young people with diabetes is improving and we’re getting better at ensuring care processes are met.

‘Yet the challenge we face is also growing, with more children being diagnosed with diabetes and some displaying early signs of potentially serious long term health problems.

‘This is a lifelong condition where tight overall diabetes control is important to reduce the risk of complications later in life. This requires a close partnership between healthcare professionals delivering care and children and families with diabetes.’

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