Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, the main type of sugar in the body. Our bodies break down the foods we eat into glucose and other nutrients needed, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract. The glucose level in the blood rises after a meal and triggers the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin and release it into the bloodstream. But in people with diabetes, the body either can’t make or can’t respond to insulin properly.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the major types of diabetes. Both make the blood sugar level higher than normal. The most common type of diabetes in children is the Type 1 also known by a variety of other names including Juvenile Diabetes, Brittle diabetes, Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and Sugar diabetes.
Once a person has this type of diabetes, it does not go away and requires lifelong treatment. Kids and teens with type 1 diabetes depend on daily insulin injections or an insulin pump to control their blood glucose levels.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
This type of diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce insulin, the hormone that allows glucose to enter the cells of the body to produce fuel. It is considered an auto-immune disease because the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. When glucose cannot enter the cells, it builds up in the blood, depriving the cells of nutrition.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, common symptoms may include:
- High levels of sugar in the blood when tested
- High levels of sugar in the urine when tested
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger but loss of weight; loss of appetite may be seen in younger children.
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Irritability and mood changes
- Serious diaper rash that does not respond to treatment
- Fruity breath and rapid breathing
- Yeast infection in girls
Diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes
This requires one or more blood tests for glucose and they include:
- A fasting blood sugar
- Oral glucose tolerant test
- Glycated haemoglobin (A1C) test.
Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes
Requires good diabetes control to minimize symptoms; prevent health problems; and help kids have normal physical, mental, emotional, and social growth and development. To do this, parents and kids should aim to keep blood sugar levels within the goal range as much as possible.
In general, kids with type 1 diabetes need to:
- take insulin as prescribed
- eat a healthy, balanced diet with accurate carbohydrate counts
- check blood sugar levels as prescribed
- get regular physical activity
Strict adherence to the treatment plan helps kids stay healthy, but treating diabetes isn’t the same as curing it. Right now, there’s no cure for diabetes, so kids with type 1 diabetes will need treatment for the rest of their lives. But with proper care, they should look and feel healthy and go on to live long, productive lives, just like other kids.
Complications of Type 1 Diabetes
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Eye problems
- Neuropathy (nerve problems)
- Foot problems
How to help a Type 1 Diabetic child?
The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes for a child can be so devastating, the child may feel being punished, guilty, fearful of death. As a parent, you can help the kid live happier, healthier by giving constant, encouragement, learning more about diabetes, making the child eat properly, exercise and stay on top of blood sugar control every day.