Children and young people with diabetes living in the most deprived areas may not manage their diabetes as well as those from the most affluent areas, warns leading health charity Diabetes UK.
Poor diabetes control leads to a higher risk of developing diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney disease and amputation.
The study, published recently in the journal Diabetic Medicine, found that on average blood glucose levels in children with diabetes from the most deprived areas were 0.5% higher than those from the most affluent areas. Blood glucose levels were also higher in those who were diagnosed at an older age and those who had diabetes for longer.
Good blood glucose control is essential for people with diabetes as it prevents potentially fatal complications such as heart disease and stroke developing in later life. Short-term complications include hypos when blood glucose levels fall too low, which could lead to becoming unconscious or in extreme cases, death, and Diabetic Ketoacidosis when blood glucose levels are too high.
Bridget Turner, Head of Healthcare and Policy at Diabetes UK, said: "The results of this study are particularly worrying as children in the UK already have the worst diabetes control in Europe. It raises questions that need to be investigated further in respect of the stark differences in health outcomes between the deprived and the affluent in this country."
The study was carried out by Professor Patricia McKinney and researchers at the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Leeds who manage the Yorkshire Register of Diabetes in Children and Young People.
Diabetes in children is rising in the UK and other developed countries. There are 20,000 young people with type 1 diabetes under the age of 15 and about 1,400 with type 2 diabetes in the UK.
Between 2002 and 2007 the number of children under five with type 1 diabetes increased five-fold and the number of under-15s with type 1 diabetes almost doubled.