Neonatal Diabetes

Neonatal diabetes mellitus is a rare form of diabetes that occurs within the first 6 months of life.

What Is Neonatal Diabetes?

Neonatal diabetes mellitus is a rare form of diabetes that occurs within the first 6 months of life. Our bodies need insulin to help our cells make energy. Infants with this condition do not produce enough insulin, which increases blood glucose levels.

Neonatal diabetes is often mistaken as type 1 diabetes, which is much more common. But type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children older than 6 months.

  • Half of babies diagnosed with neonatal diabetes have a lifelong condition. This is called permanent neonatal diabetes mellitus. It occurs in 1 in 260,000 babies in some areas of the world.
  • For the other half, the condition disappears within the first twelve weeks of life: but it can reoccur later. This is called transient neonatal diabetes mellitus.

Fetuses with neonatal diabetes do not grow as well in the womb, and these newborns may be small for their gestational age. This is called intrauterine growth restriction.

What Are the Symptoms of Neonatal Diabetes?

When blood glucose levels become high, some glucose leaves the body through urine. This causes many of the initial symptoms, which may include:

  • Increased numbers of wet diapers
  • Increased appetite
  • Dehydration

What Causes Neonatal Diabetes?

Neonatal diabetes is a “monogenetic” disease. This means it is caused by mutations in a single gene.

In most cases, the gene mutation is inherited.

How Is Neonatal Diabetes Diagnosed?

Neonatal diabetes is diagnosed when your doctor finds elevated levels of glucose in the infant’s blood or urine.

Neonatal diabetes can sometimes be confused with type 1 diabetes. Since neonatal diabetes is caused by a genetic mutation, genetic testing can help properly diagnose it.

How Is Neonatal Diabetes Treated?

Neonatal diabetes is often treated with insulin. In some cases, once specific genetic mutations are known, oral medications may be used for treatment.   

Can Neonatal Diabetes Be Prevented or Cured?

Neonatal diabetes is caused by a genetic mutation. There’s currently no way to prevent or cure it, but it can be managed.

In approximately half of infants diagnosed with neonatal diabetes, the condition disappears in infancy but can reoccur later in life.

When to Seek Help for Your Child?

If you suspect your infant has neonatal diabetes, talk to his or her health care provider as soon as possible.