Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body uses glucose, a type of sugar. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells and is obtained from the food we eat. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps to regulate the levels of glucose in the blood by allowing the glucose to enter the body’s cells.
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin and must take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to control their blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults and accounts for about 5% of all cases of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, is a metabolic disorder in which the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or is unable to produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults, but it is becoming more common in children due to the increasing prevalence of obesity.
The symptoms of diabetes in children can vary, and some children may not experience any symptoms at all. Common symptoms of diabetes in children include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, and it is not always clear if diabetes is the cause. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect your child may have diabetes, as prompt treatment is important to prevent complications.
The exact cause of diabetes is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors for diabetes in children include:
- Family history of diabetes: Children with a family history of diabetes are at an increased risk of developing the condition.
- Obesity: Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and children who are obese are at an increased risk of developing the condition.
- Race and ethnicity: Some racial and ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans, have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Lack of physical activity: Children who are inactive are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Poor diet: A diet high in sugar and unhealthy fats can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Treatment for diabetes in children will depend on the type of diabetes and the severity of the condition. Some common treatments for diabetes in children include:
- Insulin therapy: Children with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to control their blood sugar levels.
- Oral medications: Children with type 2 diabetes may be prescribed oral medications to help control their blood sugar levels.
- Blood sugar monitoring: Children with diabetes will need to regularly check their blood sugar levels to ensure that they are within the normal range. This can be done with a blood sugar monitor or by regularly visiting a healthcare provider.
- Healthy eating: Children with diabetes should follow a healthy diet that is low in sugar and unhealthy fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Physical activity: Children with diabetes should engage in regular physical activity to help control their blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight.
There is no known way to prevent diabetes, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the condition. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Children should maintain a healthy weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular physical activity.
- Eating a healthy diet: Children should follow a healthy diet that is low in sugar and unhealthy fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Getting regular physical activity: Children should engage in regular physical activity to help maintain a healthy weight and control their blood sugar levels.
- Getting vaccinated: Children with diabetes should receive the flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines to reduce the risk of complications.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html