Diabetes, types 1 and 2, are among the most common chronic childhood diseases in the United States. Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are conditions that affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.
While type 2 can be regulated with diet and exercise and sometimes medication, type 1 is an incurable disease which is controlled through daily insulin injections.
The Mayo Clinic explains that type 1 diabetes, diagnosed during childhood, used to be known as juvenile-onset diabetes. Juvenile-onset diabetes is a result of an autoimmune disorder that causes the body's immune system to attack pancreatic cells that help regulate blood sugar. The pancreas plays a role in regulating the body’s blood glucose level, or blood sugar, by making insulin.
Glucose, the main source of the body’s energy, is carried to cells through the blood stream. Insulin then transports glucose into the cells. However, with type 1 diabetes the body is unable to make insulin, glucose can’t get into the body’s cells, and blood glucose levels rise.
Parents should be aware that a child can develop the signs of type 1 diabetes over a short period, usually a few weeks. According to The Mayo Clinic, symptoms include thirst and frequent urination, intense hunger, rapid weight loss, lethargy and irritability, and blurry vision. Young girls can also develop yeast infections and babies may develop a diaper rash caused by yeast.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the last 20 years have meant an increase in the number of cases reported of type 2 diabetes in children and teens. Once known as adult-onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes happens over time as the body gradually develops a resistance to insulin and can no longer use it appropriately.
The CDC reports that youth who are diagnosed with type 2 are often between ages 10 and 19, are obese, and show a family history for type 2 diabetes. Dietary changes, increased exercise, and in some cases, medication, are the primary means for delaying or controlling type 2 diabetes.
While this condition is bound to have an impact on a child’s life, parents can help support the child with diabetes by learning all they can to help him or her manage the condition and stay active and healthy.
The American Diabetes Association offers additional resources to help you and your child:
The Mayo Clinic. Type 1 Diabetes in Children. Web. 26, Dec. 2011.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children and Diabetes. Web. 26, Dec. 2011.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. Web. 26, Dec. 2011.
Reviewed December 27, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith