MONDAY, Nov. 11, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- A simple urine test can help identify kids with type 1 diabetes who are at risk for heart and kidney disease and would benefit from early treatment to prevent these serious health problems, a new study suggests.
It is estimated that up to 40 percent of young people with type 1 diabetes may have an increased risk of developing kidney disease, which also raises their risk of heart disease, researchers at the University of Cambridge, in England, said in a university news release.
In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, a hormone that converts sugars and other food into energy for the body.
The researchers examined the link between levels of albumin (a protein found in blood) in the urine of older children with type 1 diabetes and the risk of heart and kidney diseases.
Elevated albumin levels in the urine are used to identify adults with diabetes who are at higher risk of kidney and heart disease, the researchers said, but this is the first study to show that normal variation in these levels can be a sign of increased risk in youngsters with type 1 diabetes.
The researchers measured albumin levels in the urine of more than 3,300 diabetes patients aged 10 to 16, and also checked them for early signs of kidney and heart disease.
Those whose urinary albumin levels were in the top 30 percent -- but still within what is considered the normal range -- had more evidence of early kidney and heart disease than those with lower levels, according to the study, which was published Nov. 6 in the journal Diabetes Care.
"Managing type 1 diabetes is difficult enough without having to deal with other health problems," study lead author David Dunger, of the University of Cambridge, said in the news release. "By using early screening, we can now identify young people at risk of heart and kidney disease."
"The next step will be to see if drugs used to treat heart and kidney disease -- such as statins and blood-pressure-lowering drugs -- can help prevent kidney and heart complications in this young, potentially vulnerable population," he said.
Worldwide, more than 490,000 kids aged 14 and younger have type 1 diabetes.
The Nemours Foundation has more about type 1 diabetes.