Article Text

Can clinical features be used to differentiate type 1 from type 2 diabetes? A systematic review of the literature
  1. Beverley M Shields1,
  2. Jaime L Peters2,
  3. Chris Cooper2,
  4. Jenny Lowe2,
  5. Bridget A Knight1,3,
  6. Roy J Powell3,
  7. Angus Jones1,
  8. Christopher J Hyde2,
  9. Andrew T Hattersley1
  1. 1Department of NIHR Exeter Clinical Research Facility, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  2. 2Department of Evidence Synthesis & Modelling for Health Improvement (ESMI), University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  3. 3Department of Research and Development, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, Exeter, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Andrew T Hattersley; A.T.Hattersley{at}


Objective Clinicians predominantly use clinical features to differentiate type 1 from type 2 diabetes yet there are no evidence-based clinical criteria to aid classification of patients. Misclassification of diabetes is widespread (7–15% of cases), resulting in patients receiving inappropriate treatment. We sought to identify which clinical criteria could be used to discriminate type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Design Systematic review of all diagnostic accuracy studies published since 1979 using clinical criteria to predict insulin deficiency (measured by C-peptide).

Data sources 14 databases including: MEDLINE, MEDLINE in Process and EMBASE. The search strategy took the form of: (terms for diabetes) AND (terms for C-Peptide).

Eligibility criteria Diagnostic accuracy studies of any routinely available clinical predictors against a reference standard of insulin deficiency defined by cut-offs of C-peptide concentrations. No restrictions on race, age, language or country of origin.

Results 10 917 abstracts were screened, and 231 full texts reviewed. 11 studies met inclusion criteria, but varied by age, race, year and proportion of participants who were C-peptide negative. Age at diagnosis was the most discriminatory feature in 7/9 studies where it was assessed, with optimal cut-offs (>70% mean sensitivity and specificity) across studies being <30 years or <40 years. Use of/time to insulin treatment and body mass index (BMI) were also discriminatory. When combining features, BMI added little over age at diagnosis and/or time to insulin (<1% improvement in classification).

Conclusions Despite finding only 11 studies, and considerable heterogeneity between studies, age at diagnosis and time to insulin were consistently the most discriminatory criteria. BMI, despite being widely used in clinical practice, adds little to these two criteria. The criteria identified are similar to the Royal College of General Practitioners National Health Service (RCGP/NHS) Diabetes classification guidelines, which use age at diagnosis <35 years and time to insulin <6 m. Until further studies are carried out, these guidelines represent a suitable classification scheme.

Systematic review registration PROSPERO reference CRD42012001736.


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