The number of Chinese children under 14 suffering from diabetes has almost tripled over the past 25 years, research has found.
A survey undertaken by the Children's Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai showed that between 1997 and 2000, the ratio of children suffering from the disease in the city was 1.7 per 100 thousand. A similar survey conducted in the 1980s put the ratio at just 0.61 per 100 thousand.
Ninety percent of the children found to be suffering from the disease had Type I diabetes, a chronic condition that usually occurs among juveniles when the pancreas produces too little insulin to regulate blood glucose levels.
The causes of diabetes is complex. Medical experts believe an unbalanced diet, failure of the autoimmune system and environmental factors are involved.
Type I diabetics must take insulin on a daily basis to avoid the risk of lapsing into a life-threatening coma, known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
Shen Shuixian, chief of the endocrinology department at children's hospital of Fudan University, has appealed for the condition to be given more recognition.
"The cost of treatment can be a major burden for many families," he said.
Type I diabetics usually choose outpatient treatment rather than hospitalization, as treatment costs are not covered by the national medical insurance scheme.