With an estimated 18,291 patients aged 20 years or younger diagnosed annually with type 1 diabetes (T1D) between 2014 and 2015,1 some researchers are beginning to explore how early screenings could help catch T1D and similar conditions earlier.

Screenings can catch many conditions early, thereby avoiding severe consequences or preventing them from developing altogether. Because the autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing cells can be detected years before the onset of extreme hyperglycemia and dependency on insulin injections, early screening in children and youth at risk for T1D could have life-changing results.2

The Autoimmunity Screening for Kids (ASK) study examined 25,000 children between 1 and 17 years of age in the Denver, Colorado metro area, and has shown promising results thus far, according to a press release. Specifically, the investigators found that if screening leads to a 20% reduction in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) events and results in better diabetes control after diagnosis, then the cost of screening would be more than offset by the savings resulting from fewer diabetes-related complications.2

“When people think of value in health screening, they think it’s straightforward—you catch these people early and avoid the health and economic impacts of letting the condition progress,” said Brett McQueen, PhD, assistant professor in the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy, in a statement. “With pre-symptomatic (T1D) screening, avoiding DKA events is important not only now but potentially well into the future, even beyond preventing one life-threatening event.”2

McQueen added that raising patients’ awareness through screening can also lead them to initiate behaviors to improve their glycemic control.2

“There are tradeoffs in health, as in life. Should I spend extra time, money, and effort to be healthy? Maybe if I know I’m at risk for (T1D), I do a little more than I might otherwise,” he said.2

Decreasing the cost of screening is also an important way to increase the value of these screenings. Techniques to do so could include implementing screening in areas with the existing infrastructure or reducing screening prices, according to the study.2

The investigative team has gained a better understanding of the factors influencing the value of T1D screening and are now turning their attention to defining screening practices that could increase the value further, including setting an age-based schedule for optimal screening.2

“If you’re not on top of your diabetes, both the quality and quantity of your life is going to suffer,” McQueen said in the statement. “The earlier you know you’re at risk, the more you can do to live longer and better.”2

REFERENCES
  1. Diabetes Statistics. Diabetes Research Institute; https://www.diabetesresearch.org/diabetes-statistics?gclid=CjwKCAjwh472BRAGEiwAvHVfGpQjrFdIoCj0L4-8OzTkUr7iZtuPUrDQ8wYNt5fHe33zKxSCtcaSeBoCKJ4QAvD_BwE. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  2. Study pinpoints metrics of cost-effective screening for type 1 diabetes [news release]. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; May 4, 2020. https://medschool.cuanschutz.edu/deans-office/about-us/news-page/community-news/medical-news/study-pinpoints-metrics-of-cost-effective-screening-for-type-1-diabetes. Accessed May 19, 2020.