A third of type 1 diabetes is misdiagnosed in the over 30s

By Editor
7th August 2019
Research, Type 1 diabetes Type 2 diabetes

More than a third of people aged over 30 initially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes actually have type 1, according to a University of Exeter study.

The research shows that 38% of patients with type 1 diabetes occurring after age 30 were initially treated as type 2 diabetes, without insulin. The team found that half of those misdiagnosed were still diagnosed as type 2 diabetes 13 years later.

Dr Angus Jones, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, said: “For people with type 1 diabetes, taking tablets and losing weight are not effective – they need insulin treatment. It is very difficult to diagnose type 1 diabetes in older adults, as most people of this age will have type 2, even if they are thin. Our research shows that if a person diagnosed as type 2 diabetes needs insulin treatment within three years of diabetes diagnosis, they have a high chance of missed type 1 diabetes.Therefore they need a blood test to confirm what type of diabetes they have, to ensure they receive the right monitoring, education and treatment.”

The research, funded by NIHR and the Wellcome Trust, was published in the journal Diabetologia. With support from the NIHR Exeter Clinical Research Facility, the team analysed 583 people who had insulin-treated diabetes that had been diagnosed after the age of 30. The characteristics of their disease were compared with other participants who still produced some insulin, as well as with 220 individuals with severe insulin deficiency that was diagnosed before the age of 30.

First author Dr Nick Thomas, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “While people with type 2 diabetes may eventually need insulin, their treatment and education is very different from type 1. If people with type 1 diabetes don’t receive insulin they can develop very high blood glucose, and may develop a life threatening condition called ketoacidosis. This means having the right diagnosis is vitally important even if insulin treatment has already been started.”

To access the study, click here.

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