Neonatal diabetes

Specialty of Paediatrics

What is neonatal diabetes?

Neonatal diabetes is a rare form of diabetes that an individual is born with and is usually diagnosed in the first nine months of life. There are two types:

  • Transient neonatal diabetes – doesn’t last forever, usually resolving within the baby’s first year or two. It can recur later in life, often during the teenage years.
  • Permanent neonatal diabetes – lasts for the rest of the patient’s life.

Neonatal diabetes if frequently mistaken for the much more common type 1 diabetes; however this usually develops much later than the first six months of life.

There are thought to be fewer than 100 people with the condition in the UK today.

What are the symptoms of neonatal diabetes?

Patients with neonatal diabetes do not produce enough insulin, so their blood glucose levels are abnormally high, which can lead to various problems. Typical symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Dehydration (and associated symptoms, e.g. tiredness, headaches, dry mouth, etc.)
  • Hyperglycaemia – a state of having high blood glucose levels, which can damage the pancreas, kidneys, and other body tissues.
  • Hypoglycaemia – a state of having abnormally low blood glucose levels, which may occur as a result of measures taken to lower the blood glucose, e.g. insulin injections or if the diabetic patient has eaten less than usual. Hypoglycaemia can affect the pancreas, kidneys, and mental state.

What causes neonatal diabetes?

Neonatal diabetes is caused by genetic mutations in the genes that affect insulin production. These mutations can occur spontaneously in the baby with no family history, or may have been passed on by the parents.

What is the treatment for neonatal diabetes?

Around half of patients with neonatal diabetes do not require insulin injections; instead their condition is managed with a tablet called with a tablet called glibenclamide. Other patients will need insulin injections to manage their blood sugar levels. Patients should follow their doctor’s instructions as to which medications they need and how large each dose should be.

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