New Research: More Young People Suffer Complications From Diabetes

By Libby Smith

AURORA, Colo (CBS4) – Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus have hard data now that shows that young people diagnosed with diabetes are also suffering from at least one diabetes-related health problem.

In a study of 1,746 adolescents with type 1 diabetes, and 272 with type 2 diabetes, researchers have found that one-third of the type 1 patients and nearly three-quarters of the type 2 patients have further health complications due to the disease.

LINK: Press Release: Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis In Youth Leads To Increased Complications

“The frequency of these complications is substantial in both forms of diabetes,” said Dr. Dana Dabelea, a professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at CU Anschutz.

Dr. Dana Dabelea at the LEAD Center on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus (credit CBS)

Dr. Dana Dabelea at the LEAD Center on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus (credit CBS)

Diabetes has long been associated with additional health complications like eye disease, kidney disease, numbness in the legs and feet, arterial stiffness, and high blood pressure. The surprise in these numbers is how many young people are suffering from these conditions, and how quickly they’re developing them after being diagnosed with diabetes. Many patients started seeing the secondary complications within eight-years of their diabetes diagnosis.

“We might have expected perhaps less of a burden because these are contemporary adolescents and young adults in an era where we have excellent diabetes medications and treatments,” Dabelea told CBS4.

Star Trujillo has had type 2 diabetes since age 13. (credit CBS)

Star Trujillo has had type 2 diabetes since age 13. (credit CBS)

Star Trujillo is among those young people showing signs of diabetic complications. Diagnosed with type 2 at age 13, Trujillo admits she struggled with her diagnosis as a teen.

“It turned a lot of friends against me because they didn’t quite understand. And I did get bullied a lot for it,” Trujillo told CBS4.

Now at the age of 26, she is showing the early signs of retina disease, which could lead to blindness.

“It does take an emotional toll on me,” Trujillo said.

Star Trujillo is showing early signs of retina disease. (credit CBS)

Star Trujillo is showing early signs of retina disease. (credit CBS)

LINK: SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth

Now she uses medication, and insulin to control her diabetes, and participates in a national study, called SEARCH, which tracks teens diagnosed with the disease before the age of 20. SEARCH is run out of five clinics across the country including the Lifecourse Epidemiology of Adiposity and Diabetes , or LEADS Center on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

LINK: LEAD Center at CU Anschutz Medical Campus

It’s harder to determine why so many young people are suffering these complications. Dabelea points out that the overall incidents of diabetes are up and more minorities are getting both types of the disease. With this data, researchers can find out more about these diabetes-related problems.

“To continue to follow these young adults into adulthood to really understand the progression of these complications,” Danelea said.

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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