Last updated: 15 june, 2009 - 09:02 GMT

Health

Diabetes: The Silent Killer

BBC correspondent Justin Webb's son, Sam, was recently diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.

This means he will now have to spend the rest of his life injecting himself with insulin four times a day, have an increased chance of suffering from cardiovascular disease, blindness, and the loss of the use of his limbs.

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Type-1 diabetes currently affects nearly 3 million people in the United States, 250,000 people in the UK and globally that number reaches 20 million; the causes of childhood onset diabetes remain a mystery. Finland has the highest rate of type-1 diabetes, 30 times higher than the country that suffers least from the disease, Japan.

More than 80 years have elapsed since the lifesaving discovery of insulin, a hormone that has turned a once-lethal disease into a chronic but manageable condition. Sufferers still have a life expectancy of 15 years less than average.

Justin Webb

Juvenile-onset diabetes is the second most common chronic disease in children (after asthma), 15,000 young people are newly diagnosed every year in the US, with incidences rising in children under five by around four per cent a year. And yet there is still no cure.

Justin goes beyond his role as a journalist to explore the issue from the perspective of a parent who is desperate to know what the future holds for his child.

First broadcast on Wednesday 10 June 2009

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