Young type 2 diabetes patients fare worse

Teenagers with type 2 diabetes develop eye diseases more often than peers with type 1 in the years following diagnosis, research shows

Young type 2 diabetes patients are more at risk of developing complications, including eye disease, in the years shortly after diagnosis than those with type 1 diabetes. 

A study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined 1746 young type 1 diabetes patients and 272 patients with type 2. 

The research found that 9% of patients with type 2 diabetes developed eye disease, compared to 6% of young people with type 1. 

Participants had been diagnosed with diabetes for an average of eight years at the end of the study. All patients were diagnosed with the condition before the age of 20. 

Study author, Dr Barbara Linder, highlighted to OT that there was often an assumption that young people did not develop complications from diabetes. 

“That’s just not true,” she emphasised. “We saw that young people with diabetes are developing signs of major complications in the prime of their lives,” she continued. 

As well as ocular complications, young people with type 2 diabetes also developed kidney disease and nerve disease at higher rates than peers with type 1 diabetes (20% and 18% compared to 6% and 9% respectively).

Dr Dana Dabelea emphasised to OT that the findings reflected a need for a “heightened clinical suspicion” of early diabetes complications among young adults.
“Providers should be aware that complications and comorbidities may already be present at young ages,” she added. 

Making sure that patients had regular eye examinations was important, she stressed. 

Further research would be undertaken to identify the underlying causes of the high burden of diabetes-related complications in young people, and to identify effective intervention strategies.