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'Double Diabetes' Hard to Diagnose

Jul 21, 2005 |

The obesity epidemic appears to be fueling a hybrid type of diabetes that afflicts adults and children and, some believe, might increase the devastating complications of the disease.

Dubbed "double diabetes" by some and "diabetes 1 1/2" by others, the combination of types 1 and 2 diabetes symptoms confounds doctors attempting to accurately diagnose patients and find the best medicines to treat them.

"We don't really know how prevalent this is," said Dr. Fran-cine Kaufman, the head of the Center for Diabetes and Endo-crinology at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. "We are just at the vista of realizing it's out there and trying to determine how ... we get an understanding of it."

Even Dr. Kaufman, the former president of the American Diabetes Association and author of the book Diabesity - about the obesity epidemic and related rise in type 2 diabetes - does not always recognize the double diabetes cases.

Her patient, Cameron Stark, had classic symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Then 14, she experienced unquenchable thirst. She was losing weight rapidly because her body wasn't absorbing nutrients.

She was vomiting. She felt tired all the time, one day falling asleep on the marble floor of her home. At just a little less than 5 feet tall, weighing about 200 pounds and with a family history of the disease, Cameron appeared to be a prime candidate for the diagnosis.

A blood sugar test confirmed it. She was given insulin to control the high sugar levels in her blood, and the Sherman Oaks teen joined the growing cadre of children diagnosed with what used to be called adult onset and now known as type 2 diabetes.

One month later, another test on Cameron revealed signs of the rarer variation of the disease known as juvenile diabetes and commonly called type 1 diabetes.

"It was a whole different ballgame from that day forward," said Cameron's mother, Shelley Stark.

Now 15, Ms. Stark's daughter appears to be part of an emerging population with a complex set of symptoms that might require multiple medications in addition to strict adherence to a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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