Diabetes Test Results May Be Deceptive in Black Children

Study finds racial disparities in hemoglobin A1c screenings

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FRIDAY, May 7, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Black children with type 1 diabetes score higher than whites with similar blood glucose levels on a critical test, potentially leading their physicians to give them the wrong treatment, a new study says.

The test "can be deceptive in African-American children with diabetes, misleading their doctors into believing that glucose levels are higher than they really are," research team member Dr. Stuart A. Chalew, professor of pediatrics at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, said in a news release from the school.

If doctors don't take both the test and self-monitored blood sugar levels into account, "they are likely to unintentionally provoke increased episodes of life-threatening hypoglycemia [low blood sugar] in African-American patients," Chalew said.

Chalew and colleagues tracked 276 children with type 1 diabetes for six years at Children's Hospital of New Orleans. The average age was 12.5 years and they had had diabetes for about five years, on average.

Researchers looked at results of the hemoglobin A1c screening test, which is an indicator of blood sugar levels over the previous two or three months. They also tracked blood sugar levels from glucose tests that the participants gave themselves for at least a month.

The researchers found racial disparities in the screening test results. "Besides the risk of over-treating with insulin and provoking hypoglycemia, the data also suggest that there is a need for alternate therapies to reduce diabetes complications other than insulin and other glucose-lowering agents," Chalew said.

The study is published in the May issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

More information

To learn more about kids and diabetes, see kidshealth.org.

SOURCE: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, news release, May 7, 2010

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