September 6, 2019

New classification system of type 1 diabetes

For many parents of children with type 1 diabetes, the life-changing diagnosis comes suddenly: The child has become dehydrated, resulting in a trip to the emergency room and sometimes life-threatening complications. Recently, researchers developed a classification system for the different stages of diabetes to help them understand how the disease progresses and identify type 1 diabetes before it progresses to a dangerous level.

Stage 1:

No symptoms. Normal blood sugar levels. Positive results for diabetes-related antibodies mean the immune system has started to attack insulin-producing beta cells.

Stage 2:

Still no symptoms, but an increased loss of beta cells results in abnormal blood sugar levels which, along with the presence of antibodies, cause damage that continues to worsen.

Stage 3:

Symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and fatigue. Abnormal blood sugar levels. Previously, scientists considered Stage 3 as the beginning of type 1 diabetes.

If you have a family history of type 1 diabetes, ask your diabetes doctor if your child should be screened. Research shows that the earlier a child is diagnosed, the more beta cells can be preserved, meaning the child is less likely to suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication in which the body breaks down fat much too quickly. Thanks to groundbreaking research, we have a much better opportunity to identify disease earlier and save lives!

Our UW Health pediatric diabetes team is here to offer help and support throughout this journey.