Diabetes is a very serious illness and it’s very important that children who have diabetes are diagnosed early and that they receive the treatment they need. There are certain warning signs of diabetes, like urinating frequently or when the child is constantly thirsty (and unable to quench their thirst), as well as rapid weight loss and fatigue.
However, children who do present with these signs do not necessarily have diabetes. It could very well be that these symptoms are due to something else. These are the most common symptoms of diabetes and if your child has these symptoms it’s advisable to allow a doctor to run the necessary tests. In a lot of cases, diabetes is not diagnosed early because parents think that their children are urinating more often because they are consuming more fluids.
The types of childhood diabetes
As many as five to ten percent of children diabetics suffer from type 1 diabetes. Type 1 differs from type 2 diabetes, and in many cases type 1 is referred to as being insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. The body’s immune system is usually equipped to help the body fight off infections. However, sometimes something goes wrong with the child’s immune system and the body attacks healthy cells and tends to see these healthy cells as being infections or invaders of the body. In juvenile diabetes (as it was once referred to) or type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks cells in the pancreas which produces insulin. Insulin is required by the body to process sugars from the foods that we consume. Due to the fact that the body is destroying these helpful insulin-producing cells, the body of a type 1 diabetic will be unable to produce insulin. A child who has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will then need to replace the insulin that is not being manufactured in the body, in order to survive.
There was a stage when the most common form of diabetes diagnosed in the majority of children was type 1, which was called -juvenile diabetes’. Today, however, it seems that more children and more teenagers are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes used to be a disease which typically affected adults. In fact the medical profession is now saying that at least one-third to one-half of all new cases of childhood diabetes is in fact, type 2. Type 2 diabetes tends to be more common in particular racial and ethnic groups and in children who are considered to be big for their age and in children who have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
As in the case of adults who have the disease, it’s not uncommon for a child who has type 2 diabetes to be insulin resistant and to also suffer high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. The alarming fact is that a child who suffers from all of these conditions is at an increased risk of heart disease along with other diabetes complications early in life. A child who has type 2 diabetes may be required to take oral medication, insulin, or a combination of both in order to keep the deadly disease under control.
In addition to type 1 and 2 diabetes there is also a third and very rare form of diabetes that is found in children. It is called maturity-onset diabetes of the young or MODY and this type of diabetes can affect children from all ethnic or racial groups. MODY has several varieties and all are caused by genetic defects which have had an effect on the child’s insulin-producing cells.
The treatment for MODY includes a drastic change in the child’s die,t and children with MODY are also encouraged to enjoy a more active lifestyle. Apart from changing the child’s diet and a change in lifestyle, oral medications or insulin are also instrumental in keeping this type of diabetes in check. In order to correctly diagnose this type of rare form of diabetes, specialized testing is required and due to this fact, MODY is very often wrongly diagnosed and children with this type of diabetes are treated as having either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
When diabetes is left untreated
If a child with diabetes is not diagnosed early and does not receive the treatment that is needed, it can have serious and life-threatening consequences. These include retinopathy (a vision disorder), kidney damage and poor blood circulation which can lead to a greater risk of injury, infection and other problems.
Life after diagnosis
Parents who have a diabetic child may often find that the condition overwhelms them and it takes over every aspect of their lives. Life with diabetes is not easy and it is often challenging. Children who are very young may not understand the importance of taking their medications when needed and they may also be scared and uncooperative in regards to blood testing. During adolescence, the body changes with puberty and it could make controlling diabetes harder.
Kids with type 2 diabetes will also be encouraged to follow a healthy diet and to maintain a normal body weight while making sure that they still receive all the nutrients they need to develop and grow. Kids with type 2 diabetes may be put onto a low-salt or low-fat diet, certainly if their diabetes is coupled with life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Type 2 diabetes sufferers will be encouraged to exercise regularly as exercise will aid increasing the body’s response to insulin and also be beneficial burning calories, which is essential for weight loss (or for maintaining a healthy body weight).
In order to keep diabetes under control, parents have to be vigilant about monitoring their child’s blood sugar levels and they will need to ensure that their child takes their insulin or other medications needed to allow the body to respond to the insulin more effectively.