Study opens to screen young people for type 1 diabetes
Researchers said it is essential type 1 diabetes is diagnosed quickly to avoid life-threatening complications. However, over a quarter of children aren’t diagnosed with type 1 diabetes until they are in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a condition that requires urgent hospital treatment when the body starts breaking down fat too quickly.
Research in Europe and the USA has found that the extra support and monitoring type 1 diabetes screening programmes can offer dramatically reduces the risk of being diagnosed in DKA.
While the only treatment we currently have for type 1 diabetes is insulin, there are new immunotherapy treatments being tested that could prevent or delay the condition. Children found to be at high risk as part of the ELSA study could be invited to take part in research testing these treatments.
One immunotherapy drug, called teplizumab, has been found to delay a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes by up to three years. It is currently being reviewed for use in the UK.
The ELSA study team will interview families and healthcare professionals who take part in the study to understand their views on screening and the most effective way to deliver a future screening programme. These insights will be important in making the case for widespread routine screening for type 1 diabetes in the UK.
Jayne and Mike Fairclough from St Helen’s have two daughters, Libby, aged 6, and Lottie, aged 2. Libby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2019. Jayne said: “When Libby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, our world was turned upside down. Looking back all the signs were there, but we knew nothing about diabetes and never thought it would be that.
“We weren’t prepared for what was to come – diabetes took over our lives. Libby would cry with every blood test, every injection – it was really tough for all of us. When she was first diagnosed, I thought I’d never get my little girl back, but together we’ve learned how to manage her diabetes and it’s just part of our lives. Now Libby has a pump and she’s thriving. There’s nothing she can’t do.
“If we had known Libby was at risk of type 1 diabetes, we might have spotted the signs sooner and been able to prepare ourselves for her diagnosis. Screening for type 1 diabetes could help families avoid the shock diagnosis that we went through. If our youngest daughter, Lottie is also at risk, we’d want to know. The ELSA study gives us so much hope for a better future for children who are at risk of type 1 diabetes.”
World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. It is marked every year on 14th November, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922.
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