Children and Diabetes

Diabetes in Children

The actual causes of the diabetic condition are little understood, in both children and adults. It is widely speculated that Diabetes occurred when inherited genetic characteristics are triggered by environmental factors such as diet or exercise.
A diagnosis of Diabetes can be a trying time for a family. There is a lot of information to take in, much of which will be learnt from day to day Diabetes management.

The most common form of Diabetes in children is Type 1 Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system reacts against its own cells. There is no link with being overweight for Type 1 Diabetes. This form of Diabetes can come on at any age, even before a child has become a year old in some cases. The symptoms of Diabetes may be noticed by your child becoming unusually thirsty on a regular basis and going to the toilet more than usual. Your child may become very tired and hungry and lose significant weight. Vomiting, in addition to other symptoms above, could indicate dangerously high blood sugar levels – a condition known as ketoacidosis. Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes will involve injections of insulin. These days some children may be put onto an insulin pump, which can be beneficial for keeping blood sugar under control. Injections are rarely welcomed by children but, after the initial shock, they commonly get used to the idea.

How easy Diabetes is to deal with at school tends to vary from child to child and school to school. It’s advisable to speak to your school to agree how your child’s Diabetes can be managed at school. Staff should be made aware that high and low blood sugar levels can occur and how these should be dealt with.

Type 2 Diabetes and pre-diabetes, an early form of type 2, can also occur in children. Children who are significantly overweight may develop type 2 or pre-diabetes within childhood. These Types of Diabetes will either be treated by lifestyle changes alone, or with medication as well. Many Type 1 Diabetic children do not have diabetes in their families however, so the exact cause remains a mystery. Type 2 Diabetes amongst children is usually caused by an extremely bad diet from a very young age, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle without exercise.

Symptoms

Like adults, a number of symptoms may give early warning that Diabetes has developed. One or more of the following symptoms may be associated with Diabetes:

  • Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent urination

Amongst children, specific symptoms may include stomach aches, headaches and behavioural problems. Recurrent stomach pains and an unexplainable history of illness should be treated as possible heralds of Diabetes.

Treatment

After being diagnosed, the child is referred to a regional Diabetes specialist.

Type 1 Diabetes occurs when a majority of islet cells are destroyed and the body produces insufficient or zero insulin. This condition in children can be treated only with insulin. A routine that suits the individual’s requirements is fixed and insulin is administered accordingly.

Fast-acting insulin will generally be administered during the day, and nocturnal levels will be controlled by a slow-acting dose.

Children are also prescribed insulin pumps. Some children take a very small dose of insulin initially, but gradually the dose is increased as the children grow older and thus require larger doses.

What can the parents of children with Diabetes do?

Parents need to take special care of their child’s diet and lifestyle. They also need to get the child’s blood glucose levels monitored regularly. A disease as Diabetes can be painful for both the patient and their families, but the child needs to be constantly supported throughout the lifetime of the disease. This might ease the complications that come along with the disease. To manage Diabetes successfully, it is very important to understand the disease and its effects on the child.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It is very important to know how to deliver insulin injections, even if you don’t have to. There are two major delivery sites, above the abdomen and in the thigh. Ask your doctor or healthcare professional for more information
  • It is also important to know various conditions that occur in your child as a symptom or sickness. When you recognise the symptoms of low blood glucose or diabetic ketoacidosis, you can be familiar with actions to undertake during such conditions
  • Teach your child how to monitor blood sugar levels, so that when your child grows up, he or she need not depend on anyone. Also train them how to administer insulin injections themselves
  • It is also important to keep surrounding people informed about your child’s diabetic condition and the symptoms. This would enable them to help when you are not around