A new campaign was launched today to raise awareness to the general public especially young parents, young adults and grandparents of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in children.
The campaign was launched because a delay in the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes can quickly lead to a life-threatening complication called Diabetic Ketoacidosis or in short DKA.
Children get diabetes too. On average 25 children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each month. In 2020, over 40% of new admissions with diabetes had DKA. This is an increase from 31.6% % in the period 2011-2015 and has increased steadily from 2016.
Professor Edna Roche, University of Dublin, Trinity College and Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist, CHI at Tallaght University Hospital developed and leads the Irish Childhood Diabetes National Register (ICDNR) and worked with the National Register Steering Group and students from the Technological University of Dublin to develop a simple acronym to help people recognise the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in a child.
TEST represents Thirst (increased), Energy (reduced), Sudden (weight change) and Toilet (trips increased). These symptoms are key indications that you/your child might have Type 1 diabetes and a simple blood glucose test is required urgently. These symptoms are similar for adults.
The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are subtle and they are often missed or misconstrued as a simple viral or urine infection resulting in delays in diagnosis with potentially detrimental consequences for the child and the family.
A simple fingerprick blood glucose test by a GP or pharmacist can greatly help make the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in a child or adult feeling unwell.
Often type 1 diabetes is not considered a first line diagnosis in a child when symptoms first appear. The campaign aims to raise awareness of TEST among the general public and healthcare professionals as well.
Ciara’s son Lucas ended up seriously ill in hospital with DKA in 2019 at the age of just three. She had noticed he was more thirsty than usual and was going to the toilet a lot but was unaware these were signs of Type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis was difficult as he also complained of a sore mouth and throat. However, that weekend, things deteriorated.
“On the Saturday, he was very lethargic and then on the Sunday, things took a turn for the worse. He wasn’t eating and he wasn’t really drinking. Then he started vomiting and his breathing seemed laboured. He was awake but seemed spaced out. “We brought him to Tallaght University Hospital where he ended he ended up in a high dependency unit because he was in full DKA. We had never heard of this! ,” Ciara from Dublin said.
Healthy ketone levels are considered lower than 0.6mmol/L. Lucas’s levels had been at 6.6mmol/L.
Professor Edna Roche and Diabetes Ireland are asking members of the general public to help spread the message. Our goal is to reach at least 1 million people in Ireland and the charity says it cannot achieve this on its own. To help spread the message, please visit www.diabetes.ie and help spread awareness of TEST to your family and friends.
Ruth’s daughter, Robyn, was five years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2020. Ruth noticed her daughter was very thirsty and was going to the toilet a lot, but she did not know these were signs of Type 1 diabetes.
She looked up the symptoms on the internet and diabetes kept coming up. However, she says that because Robyn was still running around and was in great form, people were saying to her that it couldn’t be diabetes and she was being “a bit dramatic.”
However, one day, she picked her daughter up and realised that she was lighter than expected and that “set alarm bells ringing.”
“I think people are particularly hesitant about going to their GP during Covid, but please don’t be. My GP once said to me, ‘if you come with something and it turns out to be nothing, that is a good result for the GP’. You are not wasting their time. You know your child best and if you feel there is something off, go to the doctor,” Ruth from Wicklow said.
Leah from Wexford is 21 years old and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11. She remembers being really exhausted and losing lots of weight. She was also drinking a lot of fluids. Her mother suspected diabetes because a number of other family members already had the condition – in fact her cousin was diagnosed in the same week as her.
Despite having family members around her with the condition, Leah says she felt shy about talking about diabetes and she went through periods when her ketones went too high and she was at risk of DKA. I remember times in my early teens when my ketones would go high and I would feel really numb. I never fully passed out but I definitely had that really bad ‘almost there’ moment,” she says.
Professor Hilary Hoey, chairperson of Diabetes Ireland said “delays in the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes is an ongoing problem in Ireland. What we are campaigning for is that if you as a parent recognise these symptoms or as a healthcare professional feel Type 1 diabetes maybe present, do a simple blood glucose finger prick test which can greatly help make the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes immediately.
The campaign is supported by the Irish Childhood Diabetes National Register (ICDNR), Diabetes Ireland and Novo Nordisk Ltd.