Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of the death in the United States. A new study reveals another disturbing detail. Researchers found that type 1 diabetes in children can cause brain loss, affecting memory and attention cognition.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a harmful complication of Type 1 Diabetes that can gradually alter brain matter in newly diagnosed children. "Children and adolescents diagnosed with type 1 diabetes with diabetic ketoacidosis have evidence of brain gray matter shrinkage and white matter swelling," the study's lead author Dr. Fergus Cameron, head of diabetes services at Royal Children's Hospital in Victoria, Australia, told HealthDay.

The recent study includes 36 children and teens with DKA and 59 without it. MRIs were taken over the course of six months. Those with DKA experienced a decrease in gray matter volume along with swelling of white matter. There was also evidence of memory loss and reduced sustained and divided attention. Symptoms tended to develop over time, raising a big concern for parents who might not notice any differences in their child right away. "Any decrement in attention or memory in children is a concern as children are acquiring new knowledge and learning new skills all the time," Cameron said.

Cameron and his team found that 20 to 30 percent of children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes had DKA. According to the CDC, from 2002 to 2003, 15,000 youth in the United States were newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year. "DKA still kills people, so we need to do better. We need better tools. And we need to educate doctors more on the symptoms of type 1 diabetes," Cameron said.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation reports that type 1 diabetes is on the rise. Each year, 30,000 U.S. adults and children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The disease, commonly known to affect younger people, develops when the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the body. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to control their blood sugar, eat healthy foods, exercise, and monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol. Without the proper care, the disease can become deadly. Some symptoms include frequent urination, constant thirst, weight loss, blurry eyesight, fatigue, dry itchy skin, and loss of feeling in feet.

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown. The CDC says that genetics, the environment, and contact with certain viruses might play a role in contracting the disease. Further research is being conducted to better understand how Type 1 Diabetes affects the brain and to learn how to prevent DKA.

Source: Cameron F, Scratch S, Nadebaum C, et al. Neurological Consequences of Diabetic Ketoacidosis at Initial Presentation of Type 1 Diabetes in a Prospective Cohort Study of Children. Diabetes Care. 2014.