How does the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) vary by age?

Updated: Oct 08, 2021
  • Author: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Previously referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes, type 1 DM is typically diagnosed in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. Although the onset of type 1 DM often occurs early in life, 50% of patients with new-onset type 1 DM are older than 20 years of age.

Type 1 DM usually starts in children aged 4 years or older, appearing fairly abruptly, with the peak incidence of onset at age 11-13 years (ie, in early adolescence and puberty). There is also a relatively high incidence in people in their late 30s and early 40s, in whom the disease tends to present less aggressively (ie, with early hyperglycemia without ketoacidosis and gradual onset of ketosis). This slower-onset adult form of type 1 DM is referred to as latent autoimmune diabetes of the adult (LADA). [43]

A study by Thomas et al, using data from the UK Biobank, determined that in 42% of type 1 DM cases reviewed, disease onset occurred in patients aged 31 to 60 years. The report also found that because type 2 DM is far more common than type 1 in individuals in the 31- to 60-year age group, with type 1 DM making up only 4% of all diabetes cases in this population, identification of type 1 DM is difficult in patients over age 30 years. The presence of type 1 DM was identified in the study using a genetic risk score that employed 29 common genetic variants. [46, 47]

The risk of development of antibodies (anti-islet) in relatives of patients with type 1 DM decreases with increasing age. This finding supports annual screening for antibodies in relatives younger than 10 years and 1 additional screening during adolescence. [4]

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