What do the new ADA guidelines for HbA1C have to say about treating children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes?
Recently, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommended lowering the target hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) guidelines for children with type 1 diabetes (T1D). A study conducted by Redondo et al. has shown that stricter controls of HbA1C within this population resulted in improved patient outcomes. Specifically, it was revealed that chronically elevated blood glucose levels in children could lead to increased rates of several serious effects, such as abnormal brain development; cardiac issues including stroke, coronary, peripheral heart disease; and other diabetic complications, nephropathy, neuropathy, and retinopathy. Better control of blood glucose levels lowered these events’ incidence and improved mortality rates in children and adolescents with T1D.
Regarding abnormal brain development, one meta-analysis (n=1619) showed that patients with T1D had lower inhibition, working memory, and executive function compared to control subjects. In a study regarding microvascular diseases, patients with lower HbA1C had a significantly lower risk of microvascular diseases than patients with higher HbA1C (mean Hba1C 8.06% vs. 9.76%). A study conducted by the Swedish National Diabetes Register found a risk over fourfold for all-cause mortality, over sevenfold for cardiovascular mortality, and elevenfold for cardiovascular disease in patients diagnosed with T1D under age ten compared to the control group.
Due to this study’s results, the ADA 2020 Standards of Medical Care recommends that children and adolescents with T1D target an HbA1C goal of less than 7%. This is a change from their 2019 guidelines, which had a target HbA1C goal of less than 7.5%.
The study suggests that more intensive insulin therapy is the preferred strategy to treat children and adolescents with T1D. Instead of simply treating a patient’s hyperglycemia with insulin, it would be more beneficial to more aggressively bring blood glucose levels to a normal range. More aggressive blood glucose treatment seems to be the best strategy that results in a lower incidence of diabetes-related complications and long-term organ damage.
However, caution should be used in this approach as more aggressive insulin therapy and lower HbA1C targets often result in a higher incidence of hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia are severe and can include dizziness, seizures, coma, and death. Despite this, the study has found that the incidence of hypoglycemia in children and adolescents with T1D has been steadily declining over the past three decades. The Danish Adult Diabetes Database (DADD) found an annual decrease of 8.4% in hypoglycemia incidence in children under 15 with type 1 diabetes from 1995-2016. Another similar study showed no significant difference in hypoglycemia rates in children who had an A1C <7% compared to children who had an A1C between 8-9% (n=1,770). Over this time, the lowered hypoglycemia rates coincide with innovations in drug therapies and technologies, such as insulin analogs, insulin pumps, and continuous glucose monitoring.
These innovative technologies make it easier than ever to keep a patient’s HbA1C within a prespecified range and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. The ADA still recommends a target of 7.5% for patients too young to properly articulate hypoglycemic symptoms, or patients who do not have access to these innovative technologies. An HbA1C score of less than 8% is acceptable for patients with a severe history of hypoglycemia or a shortened life expectancy due to other pre-existing conditions.
- The ADA recently recommended lowering the target HbA1C from 7.5% to 7% for children with type 1 diabetes.
- Lowering the target HbA1C in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes reduces the risks of developing diabetic complications such as nephropathy, neuropathy, and retinopathy, abnormal brain development, and cardiac disorders, and improves mortality.
- Although more aggressive insulin regimens can result in hypoglycemia, hypoglycemia rates in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes have decreased over the past three decades due to innovative new technologies and therapies such as insulin analogs, insulin pumps, and continuous glucose monitoring.
Adrian Gavre, PharmD Candidate, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine