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From Toledo, Ohio, USA:

What is the youngest a child can be diagnosed with diabetes? Are there any early signs and symptoms to watch for in a baby between 5 months and 2 years?


This question was referred to several members of the Diabetes Team, who have each given an answer:

Answer from Dr. O'Brien:

There is a benign transient form of hyperglycemia and glucosuria that may occur in the newborn period that has been called 'pseudodiabetes.' It is not related to Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is very uncommon in the first two years of life. In a recent multicenter study in Germany which involved over 1000 newborn infants who had either a mother or a father with Type 1 diabetes, only three developed clinical diabetes in the first two years, the youngest being at 13 months of age. If neither parent is affected, the incidence would be much lower still. Autoantibodies (which indicated that the destructive immune process had begun) were present several months before the clinical onset.

Signs of diabetes in infancy are more frequent urination, thirst and failure to gain weight. If you were worried about this very unlikely event, your pediatrician could help you to test for sugar in the urine or even to do a fasting blood sugar.


Answer from Dr. Lebinger:

True insulin-dependent diabetes can occur in very young infants under 5 months of age, though this is less common than in older infants and children. Although usually the first symptoms in an older infant or child are excessive thirst and urination followed by weight loss, these symptoms may not be noticed in a young infant who is in a diaper and being fed formula or mother's milk.

In my experience, the babies I have seen who were diagnosed at 2-3 months of age were diagnosed as part of the evaluation of severe vomiting and dehydration or difficulty breathing initially diagnosed as severe bronchiolitis or asthma. (When ketoacidosis develops, vomiting can become severe, and breathing can be very rapid). Only retrospectively when questioned further had some of the parents noticed that their child's diapers were being saturated more quickly or that the child wanted to drink more, and usually they thought this was normal because the child was growing.

The progression from the early symptoms when the child does not appear sick to the late symptoms when the child can be dangerously ill, can progress very rapidly in an infant.

You may want to read the personal stories written by parents of children who were diagnosed in infancy in our Parents and Kids section. You might want to read the story of Jacob in the Kids' Voices section. He was diagnosed with diabetes at 23 days of life!


Original posting 29 Jan 97


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
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