Being a diuretic is a symptom of diabetes. But when incontinence affects children, it's not easy to conclude that they have such a dangerous condition.
A group of Southampton, UK doctors are speaking up on behalf of children with Type-1 diabetes who haven’t been correctly diagnosed. The group told media outlets that, “Children’s lives are at risk because doctors are not recognizing symptoms of a major disease.”
Although this issue is garnering attention on the other side of the pond, it’s relevant in the U.S. and on a global scale. According to Dr. Justin Davis, who serves as a consulting pediatric endocrinologist at a British children’s hospital, parents are being given the runaround and incorrect diagnoses at an alarming rate.
Bedwetting and overly wet nappies may be a big red flag to indicate the presence of Type-1 diabetes. The child may show other symptoms as well, such as general exhaustion, mood swings related to feeding schedules, and intense cravings for sweet foods in an effort to stabilize blood sugars.
While bedwetting is relatively common and certainly not just a sign of potential diabetes, diabetes is the fastest-growing chronic disease and can be fatal if left untreated.
What the studies reveal
A study recently showed that of 261 children aged 18 months to 16 years, 33 percent had been seen by “multiple doctors” before receiving a proper Type-1 diabetes diagnosis. Often, these children were under the age of two when the correct diagnosis was made.
Compare that to the fact that 25 percent of 2,000 children studied who knowingly have diabetes experience diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) each year. Dr. Davis says, “Despite improvement in diabetes care leading to increased life expectancy, the mortality rate for children with Type-1 diabetes remains higher than the general population and DKA is the leading cause of death.”
Unlike Type-2 diabetes, which tends to develop in teens and adults, persons are born with Type-1 diabetes. “Unfortunately, the incidence of DKA in a quarter of patients at diagnosis is relatively unchanged from reports over the past 20 years and nearly twice as high as that observed in Sweden,” says Dr. Davis.
“This is a major problem. Symptoms like bedwetting, especially in very young children, can easily be wrongly attributed to growing and changing bodies instead of a sign that something’s very wrong.
According to Dr. Kemi Lokulo-Sodipe, a research fellow at the Southampton Children’s Hospital who co-authored the study, parents should always keep an eye out for diabetes symptoms. These may include an overly frequent need to use the bathroom as well as bedwetting.
“As a nation, we need to emphasize that diabetes is common and the incidence is increasing,” she says. “It can be present in babies and young children and should be at the top of the list in any child with increased toileting, including heavy wet nappies and bedwetting, but also weight loss and fatigue.”
It’s often a good idea to get a second opinion, but parents should also know that not all bedwetting is simply something children will outgrow, and intervention may be necessary. Even if diabetes isn’t present, bedwetting can also be a sign of other physical, mental, or emotional issues that need to be addressed.