Type 1 Diabetes Often Misdiagnosed in Adults Over 30: Study

Many people who develop type 1 diabetes as adults are initially misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes, according a new study from researchers at Britain’s University of Exeter.

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Published in the journal Diabetologia, the study involved looking at the clinical records of 583 people with insulin-treated diabetes who were diagnosed after age 30. The researchers found patterns that suggested either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, which didn’t always match up with the exact diagnosis a patient received.

In fact, the researchers found that out of the participants whose medical data suggested type 1 diabetes — such as by showing a major deficiency in naturally produced insulin — 38% received no insulin at diagnosis. The vast majority of these people progressed quickly to needing insulin, with 85% starting to use it within a year of their diabetes diagnosis.

What’s more, half of all study participants who were initially misdiagnosed were still wrongly identified as having type 2 diabetes 13 years after their diagnosis, based on the researchers’ models of type 1 diabetes. Only 79% of all participants that the researchers identified as having type 1 diabetes self-identified as having it, versus 100% of a separate group of people outside the study who received their diagnosis before age 30.

“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,” says the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Angus Jones, a clinician scientist at the University of Exeter Medical School.

This means, he says, that people who progress quickly to using insulin “need a blood test to confirm what type of diabetes they have, to ensure they receive the right monitoring, education and treatment.”

Want to learn more about type 1 diabetes? Read “Six Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms You Need to Know” and “Type 1 Diabetes Research: What’s New?”

Quinn PhillipsQuinn Phillips

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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