Over 30% of adults with Type 1 diabetes were diagnosed after the age of 30.

Over 30% of adults with Type 1 diabetes were diagnosed after the age of 30.

Type 1 Diabetes: Debunking the Childhood Disease Myth

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For years, type 1 diabetes has been associated primarily with childhood. However, a new study challenges this belief and suggests that nearly 40% of Americans with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed after the age of 30[^1^]. This finding sheds light on the misconception that type 1 diabetes is solely a childhood disease and highlights the need for a better understanding of its prevalence among adults.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for only about 5% to 10% of all diabetes cases, with type 2 being the more common form[^1^]. While type 2 diabetes is often linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells responsible for producing insulin[^1^]. Identifying clear risk factors for type 1 diabetes is challenging, although having a family history of the disease serves as a major warning sign[^1^].

To gain further insight into the age at which type 1 diabetes is diagnosed, researchers analyzed data from nearly 950 adults aged 18 and above who had been previously confirmed to have the disease[^1^]. The study found that the overall median age at diagnosis was 24, indicating that half of the patients were diagnosed younger, while the other half were diagnosed older[^1^]. Men tended to be diagnosed later in life than women, with a median age of 27 for men and 22 for women[^1^]. Racial and ethnic minorities were also diagnosed later in life, with a median age ranging from 26 to 30, compared to 21 among white patients[^1^].

These findings challenge the commonly held belief that type 1 diabetes primarily affects children and young adults. Recent research suggests that over 60% of type 1 diabetes cases occur after the age of 20[^1^]. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize that type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, breaking the stereotype that it is exclusively a childhood condition[^1^].

Despite the potential for diabetes symptoms to go unnoticed for months or even years, routine screening for type 1 diabetes is not currently recommended[^1^]. Consequently, many patients may go undiagnosed well into adulthood. However, the study’s lead author, Michael Fang, emphasizes that the findings do not imply patients are falling through the cracks; instead, they highlight the diverse nature of the disease[^1^].

Dr. Caroline Sloan, an assistant professor at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, states that associating type 1 diabetes primarily with childhood can lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment for adults with the disease[^1^]. Sloan stresses the importance of using appropriate testing during diabetes screening to correctly identify the type of diabetes a person has[^1^].

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, serves as a reminder that type 1 diabetes is not confined to childhood. It underscores the need for healthcare professionals to be aware of the prevalence of adult-onset type 1 diabetes and encourages further research into the varying age ranges at which it can develop[^1^].

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Question: Diabetes is defined best as…

Answer: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells responsible for producing insulin[^1^].

For more information on type 1 diabetes, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website[^1^].

Sources 1. Michael Fang, PhD, MHS, assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore 2. Caroline Sloan, MD, general internist and assistant professor, Medicine and Population Health Sciences, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke University, Durham, N.C. 3. Annals of Internal Medicine, Sept. 26, 2023