Is Type 1 Diabetes Much More Common than We Think?

Is Type 1 diabetes dramatically more common than is widely understood? That’s the contention of Dr. David Leslie, Professor of Diabetes and Immunology at London University’s Blizard Institute.

In the United States, about 30 million people are said to have diabetes. Of those, about 1 million are diagnosed with Type 1, and the other 29 million are diagnosed with (or suspected of having) Type 2. But is that ratio accurate? Or does it reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of Type 1 diabetes?

Dr. Leslie thinks the real numbers “will definitely be different:”

“The number of people with Type 1 is probably much higher than we’ve accounted for. That 29 million – something like 2 million of them may have undiagnosed Type 1.”

The misdiagnosis of Type 1 diabetes is already a known problem. It’s easy for doctors to confuse Type 1 with Type 2, especially among adult patients and those displaying some of the indicators of the latter condition, such as obesity. A recent study from the University of Exeter last year showed that “38% of patients with Type 1 diabetes occurring after age 30 were initially treated as Type 2 diabetes,” and, even more strikingly, that “half of those misdiagnosed were still diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes 13 years later.”

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