AN ALARMING increase in the number of young people in west Scotland being diagnosed with juvenile Type 1 diabetes has forced the Scottish Government to issue life-saving guidance to schools.
Figures released to the Evening Times show the number of cases of Type 1 diabetes has risen over the past eight years, from 26,294 in 2006 to 29,251 in 2014 - an increase of 11.34%.
According to the Scottish Diabetes Survey, these findings reflect the rising incidence among young children and it is a ticking timebomb.
Last year 3733 people aged under 20 were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in Scotland, and 1860 were under 15.
As part of the survey, tests of average blood sugar levels among 15-24-year-old Glaswegians showed a concerning increase in the number at risk of the insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes rising from 36% in 2012 to more than 38% in 2013.
Unlike Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to age, poor diet and lifestyle, Type 1 usually develops in childhood. Extensive research has still be carried out to find out its causes, but it is thought to be primarily an inherited condition.
Few people understand the differences between the two types: in Type 2 patients the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level, whereas, people with Type 1 do not produce any. This means if it goes undiagnosed it can seriously damage vital organs, lead to coma and even death.
The total number of people with diabetes across the country stands at 268,154. Almost 11% (29,261) have Type 1, the majority being diagnosed in early childhood.
In the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area there are 61,647 people registered with diabetes, while 2189 people died from diabetes-related complications in 2013.
We can reveal these shocking results have prompted the Scottish Government to issue new guidelines entitled Supporting Children And Young People With Type 1 Diabetes In Education to schools, parents, young people and local councils.
The guidance, produced by the Scottish Diabetes Group and Diabetes Scotland, sets out new policies and responsibilities for early diagnosis and advice for helping youngsters manage their condition.
Jane-Claire Judson, Diabetes Scotland's national director, said: "The average blood sugar levels reported in the 2013 survey show there is a concerning increase in the number of 15-24-year-old Glaswegians at risk of diabetes if they do not manage their condition.
"It is important that teachers and health professionals have the information they need to help their pupils and children do this.
"More people are aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis.
"In 2012, there were 85 emergency admissions for bacterial meningitis compared with about 450 people, including children, in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).
"Action needs to be taken urgently to reduce the rate of emergency DKA admissions for Type 1 diabetes.
"Awareness of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes should be as familiar to everyone as investigating the signs and symptoms of meningitis.
"It is a human right for children to be able to access education and not miss a day's school.
"The care of children with Type 1 diabetes is a team effort, which requires all participants to play an active part in ensuring the child or young person has the best possible start in life and can succeed for the future.
"This document highlights the responsibilities of each of the partners involved to give a complete picture of what is needed so children and young people with Type 1 diabetes are healthy and safe."
MS Judson added: "I hope all schools and local authorities will use this guidance in collaboration with children, parents and paediatric diabetes teams, so children can manage their condition and receive the appropriate provision of care.
"Education is the gateway to a healthier adult life and creating opportunities for the future."
Diabetic Ketoacidosis can lead to death when the levels of blood glucose are so high that the body starts to break down other tissues as an alternative energy source because no insulin is being produced by the pancreas as in Type 1.
The Government-funded guidance has been issued to schools across west Scotland. Teachers and pupils at Mount Florida Primary, Glasgow, are among those getting behind the awareness campaign.
Head teacher Carole Neil said: "This guidance is great for helping staff in our school understand what we can do to make sure children with Type 1 diabetes have a safe and enjoyable time in school and that their condition is not a barrier to taking part in any of the activities.
"We work closely with staff and children and hope to involve parents so that everyone understands what diabetes is and how they can help."
Sandi was gravely ill … aged just six
SANDI McKechnie was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was six after she became gravely ill.
She had lost weight, had no appetite, felt thirsty and tired all the time, and was frequently going to the toilet - all the classic symptoms of the illness.
Her mother was worried about her and Sandi's gran, a health visitor, told her to take Sandi to the local clinic for testing.
It was found her blood sugar levels were dangerously high and she was taken to hospital, where she was put on an insulin drip immediately. That saved her life.
Sandi spent five days in hospital and her mother was shown how to give her daughter two insulin injections a day on her release.
Now a 24-year-old occupational therapist, Sandi says being Type 1 is just a way of life for her. And she wants to get the message across to parents that although it is a dangerous condition it can be managed and their child can live a normal, healthy life after diagnosis.
Sandi, from Mount Florida, Glasgow, said: "There is life after diabetes but if it goes undiagnosed, the child can go into diabetic ketoacidosis, when the blood sugars are so high it can lead to coma or even death.
"I would advise parents, children and teachers to look out for the vital signs and never rule it out if their child is unwell.
"It should be one of the things we are programmed to do because the risk is so high and it is more common than meningitis in children."
She said many people are ignorant to the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and there is still a stigma attached to the condition.
She said: "They are two totally different conditions: Type 1 is a long term auto-immune chronic condition that means the pancreas has stopped working and is unable to produce insulin. Type 2 is often triggered by poor lifestyle and obesity.
"People do not understand there is nothing those with Type 1 could have done about it. No-one knows what causes it or why it affects mainly children. It is just down to bad luck."
The top five danger signs ...
Here are the top five danger signs of Type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of this condition can develop quickly, over weeks or even days, so early diagnosis is vital.
1 Extreme thirst.
2 Frequent urination.
3 Feeling very tired.
4 Loss of appetite.
5 Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk.