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Brain Changes & Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis in Kids

Complication called ketoacidosis can affect memory, thinking for six months, reports study


The researchers found decreased gray matter volume in the children with diabetic ketoacidosis as well as swelling in the white matter. These brain changes resolved quickly.

But children who'd experienced these brain changes had more delayed memory recall and poorer sustained and divided attention scores for at least six months after the diabetic ketoacidosis, the study found.

"Changes in memory and attention are subtle, and may or may not be noticed by a parent or teacher on a daily basis," said Cameron. "However, any decrement in attention or memory in children is a concern as children are acquiring new knowledge and learning new skills all the time."

Cameron said he was concerned that repeated episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis might lead to cumulative damage.

Although this study only looked at a six-month period, Cameron said previous research hints these changes may be longer lasting.

Aaron Kowalski, vice president of treatment therapies for JDRF, said parents shouldn't be overly concerned by these findings. A number of studies have looked at brain function and diabetes, he said. "The question is whether diabetes has a long-term lasting effect on thinking and reasoning, and the data isn't there. Long-term studies suggest there is not a long-term effect," he said.

But the topic warrants further research, Kowalski added, and highlights the continuing need to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis from occurring. "DKA still kills people, so we need to do better. We need better tools. And we need to educate doctors more on the symptoms of type 1 diabetes," he said.

Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

If you notice any of these signs, a simple finger-stick blood test at the doctor's office can diagnose type 1 diabetes.

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