Childhood Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious, chronic metabolic disorder in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not respond to the insulin being produced. Diabetes affects an estimated 26 million children and adults in the United States which is over eight percent of the population. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, more than breast cancer and AIDS combined. While diabetes can lead to serious complications, it can often be successfully managed through dedicated, lifelong treatment.

Types of Diabetes

Each type of diabetes is caused by different factors. Two types of diabetes are as follows:

Type 1 Diabetes

Previously known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes affects five percent of those diagnosed with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is considered to be the result of an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, disabling the body‘s ability to produce insulin. It is most likely to affect children with a family history of the disease or a genetic disposition.

Type 2 Diabetes

This form of the disease was once referred to as adult-onset diabetes, but now affects up to one in three children. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of preventable diabetes and is influenced by age, obesity and family history. In this form of diabetes the pancreas produces enough insulin but the body cannot use it effectively and therefore production slowly decreases.

Symptoms of Diabetes

While Type 1 diabetes usually develops during childhood or adolescence, it can also manifest during adulthood. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, which are preventable, can occur at any age.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Any or all of type 1 and gestational diabetes symptoms
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Cuts or bruises that heal slowly
  • Recurring skin, mouth, vaginal or bladder infections

Children with diabetes must monitor their blood sugar levels with the food they eat, the physical activity they participate and the medication they take on a daily basis. Most diabetes patients need to take medication everyday for the rest of their lives in order to manage their condition and prevent complications.

Diagnosis of Diabetes

Diabetes is diagnosed by testing the blood glucose levels. These tests may be performed after fasting, after drinking a beverage high in glucose or randomly. If the blood glucose level is above a certain amount, depending on the conditions of the test, a diabetes diagnosis can be confirmed.

Treatment of Diabetes

It is recommended that children with diabetes take an active role in managing their condition, once they are old enough to do so. Monitoring blood glucose levels is essential in preventing episodes of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. If not treated properly, diabetes can lead to serious complications such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Blindness
  • Amputation
  • Hypertension

A lifelong commitment is needed in order to prevent these complications. With practice and dedication, daily treatment can quickly become just another part of everyday routine.

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