Adults aren't the only ones affected by diabetes. Many children are living with the condition as well. A recent study on kids in Philadelphia showed that diabetes rates have risen even among very young children.
Researchers found that the rate of type 1 diabetes among children in Philadelphia increased by 29 percent between 1985 and 2004. Among children under 5 years of age, the rate of type 1 diabetes increased by 70 percent during the same time period.
While risk factors for type 2 diabetes are well understood, the risk factors for type 1 diabetes are less clear. The results of this study highlight a need for more research to identify why type 1 diabetes rates continue to grow.
Terri H. Lipman, PhD, CRNP, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, led a team of researchers to describe rates of type 1 diabetes in children in Philadelphia from 2000 to 2004. They also described rates of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers looked at childhood diabetes rates in Philadelphia because that city has a unique collection of data - the Philadelphia Pediatric Diabetes Registry, which is the only registry of diabetes in children that has steadily collected data since 1985. Rates of new cases of diabetes between 2000 and 2004 were compared to rates from previous years.
Dr. Lipman and colleagues found that the rate of type 1 diabetes in 2000 to 2004 (17 per 100,000 per year) was much higher than the rate from previous years.
On average, type 1 diabetes rates increased by 1.5 percent per year and 7.8 percent over the course of 5 years.
Type 1 diabetes rates among white children (19.2 per 100,000 per year) were 48 recent higher than rates among white children from previous years.
Children under the age of 5 had a 70 percent higher rate (12.2 per 100,000 per year) of type 1 diabetes compared to a group of children of the same age in 1985 to 1989. This increase was most noticeable among black children.
The overall rate of type 2 diabetes was 5.8 per 100,000 per year and was much higher in black children.
Among white children, the rate of type 1 diabetes was 18 times higher than the rate of type 2 diabetes. In comparison, the rate of type 1 diabetes in black children was only 1.6 times higher than that of type 2 diabetes.
"The most rapid increase in type 1 diabetes - in children diagnosed before age 5 - requires immediate attention," said Dr. Lipman in a press release. "These young children are at the highest risk for death because of often-delayed diagnosis. The rapidly rising risk of diabetes in black children ages 0 to 4 years is of particular concern given the marked racial disparities that have been identified in diabetes outcomes and treatment in this population.
"The incidence of type 1 diabetes in Philadelphia children has increased at an average yearly rate of 1.5 percent," Dr. Lipman continued. "However, the incidence had been relatively stable over the first 15 years and has risen most markedly since 2000. This upward trend adds to the evidence of an increasing incidence of diabetes in the United States and worldwide.
"Type 1 diabetes continues to be the greatest risk for children in Philadelphia, three times greater than type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Lipman.
"Improving and continuing research and data collection will help clarify the origins and epidemiology of these alarming worldwide trends in pediatric diabetes," she concluded.
The study was published December 22 in Diabetes Care. No funding or disclosure information was available.