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More U.S. kids have type 1 diabetes, researchers don't know why

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Staff writer |
Kid diabetes
Children   A global and puzzling rise in type 1 diabetes

The number of U.S. kids living with type 1 diabetes has increased by almost 60 percent since 2002, and experts are not sure why.

Using a national database, researchers found that the prevalence of type 1 diabetes stood at just under 1.5 cases per 1,000 children and teenagers in 2002. By 2013, that figure had risen to 2.3 per 1,000.

The study adds to evidence of a global and puzzling rise in type 1 diabetes.

Unlike type 2 diabetes - a common adulthood disease - type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with obesity. It's an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells that produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. And it's usually diagnosed in childhood.

People with type 1 diabetes have to take daily insulin injections, or have an insulin pump implanted, to survive.

It's a difficult disease to manage, and it carries long-term complications like nerve damage, kidney failure and heart disease, said Dr. Steven Griffen, vice president of translational development for the JDRF - a nonprofit that supports research into type 1 diabetes.

The fact that type 1 is growing more common means that it's increasingly important to understand its causes, he said.

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