New Study Shows Difficulty Transitioning To Adulthood With T1D

The transition to adulthood is hard enough for most adolescents, but when you factor in a chronic illness, like type 1 diabetes, this change in life becomes particularly challenging. Just how difficult is it? In a new study published in the current issue of the "Journal of Pediatrics," UCLA researchers found that young people with type 1 diabetes who had moved from pediatric to adult care were 2.5 times more likely to have chronically high blood glucose levels—putting them at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, blindness and kidney failure later in life.

This finding is not at all surprising, said Mathew Freeby, MD, an adult endocrinologist and the Hunter Eastman Scholar of Translational Diabetes Research at Columbia’s Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. “There is extensive research documenting declining glucose control during adolescence and young adulthood,” he said. “The data recently published support previous findings. Many speculate these changes are related to multiple factors—including social and psychological challenges, difficulty accessing care, stresses related to leaving a pediatrician, and the changing relationship between parent and emerging adult.”  

The study also showed that patients who transitioned earlier, did better and showed lower baseline glucose levels than those who transitioned later. “There were other factors pointing to earlier transition,” said Dr. Freeby. “We may need to better identify and target those struggling to care for their diabetes and to review factors related to delayed transition. Although controversies exist relating to systematic improvements, providing age-specific care, opening lines of communication and offering an educator who bridges the gap between pediatrician and adult provider may be potential targets.” 

This new research, said Dr. Freeby, “is a reminder to all that young adults are at high risk—and more research is needed to pinpoint improvements in their care.”

 Click here to learn more about the Berrie Center’s transition program.