Type 1 Diabetes in Children
According to the CDC, over 13,000 young people are diagnosed with type 1 or juvenile diabetes every year, and currently about 151,000 people under the age of 20 have diabetes. Europe has been reporting an increasing frequency of type 1 diabetes in children, although it is unclear whether such an increase is being seen in the United States.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
The body needs insulin, produced by the pancreas, to process sugar, starches, and other food into energy. “Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin … the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells … called beta cells …” (JDRF). Researchers don’t yet know what causes T1D, but they suspect that both genetics and environment can be triggers and that diet or lifestyle does not play a role in the onset.
The symptoms of T1D usually come on suddenly or over a period of weeks (compiled from JDRF, WebMD, and MayoClinic):
- Extreme thirst (high blood sugar)
- Frequent need to urinate (high blood sugar)
- Drowsiness / lethargy
- Increased sweating (low blood sugar)
- Increased appetite (low blood sugar)
- Sudden weight loss
- Blurred vision (high blood sugar)
- Sugar in the urine
- Fruity-smelling breath
- Heavy or difficulty breathing
- Yeast infections in girls or diaper rashes caused by yeast
Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes in Children
If the body is not producing insulin, then it must be injected or pumped on a daily or multiple-times-per-day basis, and blood glucose levels monitored very closely. Children with type 1 diabetes must check their blood six times a day or more, and must balance insulin injections, activity, and food to maintain optimal levels. There is always the risk of blood sugar levels being too high or too low, and both can be life-threatening.
Insulin injections or infusions keep children with T1D alive, but do not cure the disease or prevent the possible onset of kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack, stroke and pregnancy complications.
While therapies or products such as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, osteopathy or herbal remedies may come with the claim that they can help control diabetes, there is no therapy that will make your child’s pancreas start producing the insulin that your child’s body needs on its own. So beware of such claims and do not use these methods in place of standard insulin injections or infusions.
Research continues to search for a cure.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Children and Diabetes – More Information. Centers for Disease Control. Web. Mar 8, 2012.
Type 1 diabetes in children. Mayo Clinic. Web. Mar 8, 2012.
Type 1. American Diabetes Association. Web. Mar 8, 2012.
Fact Sheets: Type 1 Diabetes Facts. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Web. Mar 8, 2012.
Type 1 Diabetes: Children Living With the Disease – Topic Overview. WebMD. Web. Mar 8, 2012.