Many might think type 1 diabetes is a “disease of childhood”, but research, published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, has found it has similar prevalence in adults.
More than 40% of Britons diagnosed with the condition are over 30.
Many of these are initially diagnosed with type 2, and receiving the wrong treatment can be life-threatening.
Charity Diabetes UK is calling for doctors not to rule out the possibility a patient over 30 might have type 1.
‘Banging my head against a wall’
Helen Philibin, a mother of two from Torquay, who was 40, slim and active when she was diagnosed.
She said: “Having the wrong diagnosis was extremely frustrating. I just knew it wasn’t right.
“I’m always running around with my two young kids and I walk the dog every day.”
She visited her GP complaining of extreme thirst. A blood test strongly indicated she had diabetes.
Her doctor diagnosed her with type 2 and prescribed metformin, the most commonly-used drug for the condition. She was also sent on a course to learn about lifestyle factors including a low-sugar diet.
“All the other people on the course were in their mid-60s and overweight. I was 5ft 10in and nine-and-a-half stone. I stood out like a sore thumb,” said Helen.
“When I raised it with nurses or my GP, I was told that type 1 diabetes is always diagnosed in childhood, so I had to be type 2. I felt like I was banging my head against a wall.”
Helen changed her diet to get better blood sugar control – but she began vomiting up to four times a week.
“It was horrible,” she said. “Even a single piece of toast would send my blood sugar levels through the roof and I was losing even more weight.”
Helen’s story isn’t unique.
According to the new report, misdiagnosis may be a surprisingly common occurrence in the UK.
The team analysed the genetic data of 13,250 people of white European descent, who developed diabetes in the first six decades of their life, in the health resource UK Biobank.
Originally published at BBC
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