The prevalence of diabetes among adolescents in the United States is estimated to be 0.8%, with more than a quarter of that group being undiagnosed, according to a research letter published in JAMA.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2014, Andy Menke, PhD, and colleagues estimated the prevalence of diabetes overall, undiagnosed disease, and prediabetes in adolescents aged 12-19 years.

Of the 2,606 adolescents included in the analysis, 62 had diabetes, 20 were undiagnosed, and 512 had prediabetes. The weighted prevalence of diabetes was 0.8% (95% confidence interval, 0.6%-1.1%), of which 28.5% (95% CI, 16.4%-44.8%) was undiagnosed. The researchers defined undiagnosed diabetes as having no report of previous diagnosis but having a hemoglobin A1c level of 6.5% or greater, a fasting plasma glucose level of 126 mg/dL or greater, or a 2-hour plasma glucose level of 200 mg/dL or greater.

The prevalence of prediabetes among the adolescent sample was 17.7% (95% CI, 15.8%-19.8%). Prediabetes was defined as a hemoglobin A1c level of 5.7%-6.4%, a fasting plasma glucose level of 100-125 mg/dL, or a 2-hour plasma glucose level of 140-199 mg/dL among adolescents who did not have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.

“A relatively large proportion was unaware of the condition, particularly among non-Hispanic black participants and Hispanic participants, indicating a need for improved diabetes screening among adolescents,” the researchers wrote. “These findings may have important public health implications because diabetes in youth is associated with early onset of risk factors and complications.”

The researchers were unable to distinguish between types of diabetes, but they noted that previous research in adolescents found that 87% had type 1.

Read the full research letter in JAMA ( 2016;316[3]:344-5. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.8544 ).


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