There are currently 1.25 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), including 200,000 children, and approximately 40,000 new patients are diagnosed every year.
“The percentage of children with T1D is increasing worldwide, particularly those under age five,” says Dr. Jane Kim, pediatric endocrinologist at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and researcher at UC San Diego.
Many still refer to T1D as juvenile diabetes, however, it can occur at any age, and increasingly more adults are being diagnosed after age 30.
“I recently diagnosed a patient with new-onset T1D at 82 years old. We are definitely seeing more of this,” says Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas, Vice President of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute and Scientific Review Committee member at the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC).
An emotional and physical toll
T1D is unique because of how much self-management is required. Patients can spend over 5,000 hours annually making decisions about how much insulin to take and juggling how stress, exercise, food, illness, and 35 other variables affect blood sugar levels.
Most people with T1D, especially children, are unable to achieve recommended levels of diabetes control, no matter how hard they try. Time in normal range is correlated with fewer complications of the disease.
A T1D diagnosis is life-changing for the person who receives it and their family. Parents report trauma-like symptoms around the time of diagnosis. Increased burnout and stress occur given the unrelenting demands of T1D. There are the ongoing fears of life-threatening low blood sugar levels (1 in 17 patients die of hypoglycemia), blindness, kidney failure, depression, cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and other risks.
Hope for the future
The Diabetes Research Connection is researching ways to develop low-cost, readily available, and low-burden interventions for families with T1D, as well as a cure for those living with the disease.
“Knowing there are people researching ways to cure T1D keeps me going through the difficult times and provides me with hope,” says Emily Smith, who was diagnosed with T1D at age 12.
To learn more about new research projects aimed at preventing, curing, and bettering care for those with T1D visit, DiabetesResearchConnection.org.