child diabetes

Child Diabetes: Myth or Reality?

You often panic at the thought of being diagnosed with diabetes considering the innumerable restrictions and health issues that it tends to bring along with it such as damaged blood vessels, nerve and sight disorders, ketoacidosis, heart problems including stroke and several others. The specter of these diabetes-related complications becomes even more worrying when your child has being diagnosed with diabetes. However, it is important to remember that when detected early, even child diabetes can be treated and kept under control.

A child might be diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes as is the case with adults. Type 1 diabetes is the more common of the two. Here is a bit about the causes and symptoms of each:

Type 1 diabetes: In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas lose the ability to produce the hormone insulin and, due to the absence of insulin, sugar cannot be transmitted from the blood into the cells which in return results in high blood sugar levels. As a result, glucose starts accumulating in the bloodstream instead of providing the cells with energy.

You will need to provide the body with insulin for a long period of time to allow it to process sugar and also take other measures to keep blood sugar levels in check through exercise and the right diet. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes manifest almost immediately after insulin production stops, usually within a week or two.

Type 2 diabetes: Your child is less likely to be affected by type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. In case of type 2, it takes quite some time before you start noticing the symptoms, up to several months. This happens because the body does not respond to insulin properly and, later on in the disease progression, the body does not make enough insulin.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Diabetes can trigger several serious complications in the long run if it goes unnoticed. It is important that the condition is detected at an early stage so that it may be controlled and managed. Diabetes is difficult to detect, more so, in case of type 2 than in type 1 because symptoms of type 1 start showing much earlier as compared to type 2. While some of the symptoms may be similar or common, there are also distinct symptoms associated with each.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes:

  • Increased thirst and urination is perhaps one of the earliest symptoms. A toilet trained child may suddenly experience bed-wetting. Increased thirst occurs due to the absorption of fluids from the body due to accumulation of sugar in the bloodstream
  • Increased hunger is another symptom. The insulin is unable to provide sugar to the cells and hence, a constant lack of energy is experienced, leading to increased hunger
  • Fatigue is caused by the lack of sugar in the cells
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Fruity-smelling breath is a result of breakdown of fat instead of sugar which produces substances called ketones
  • Weight loss is perhaps one of the first signs of type 1 diabetes. Since the insulin is unable to provide the cells, tissues and muscles with the much needed sugar, your child might start losing weight
  • Diabetes may lead to genital yeast infection in adolescent girls and diaper rashes for babies
  • High blood sugar may suck out all the fluids from the child’s eye lenses’

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes

While some of the symptoms for type 2 diabetes are common to the symptoms of type 1 diabetes such as frequent urination and increased thirst, weight loss and fatigue, some distinct symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Slow healing of sores or cuts
  • Itchy skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Heavy breathing
  • Dry mouth

What are the causes of child diabetes?

Here are some of the common risk factors:

  • Hereditary: If diabetes runs with your family or if you or your partner is diabetic, your child too may run potential risks
  • Genetic: The presence of certain genes or genetic abnormalities is likely to result in diabetes
  • Obesity : Being overweight is a common risk-factor for developing diabetes

What are the potential complications of child diabetes

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health complications if they go undetected. Hence it is important to remain alert and consult your pediatrician soon to get your child tested for diabetes so that treatment can begin without delay:

Type 1 diabetes complications:

  • Damage of eyes, nerves or kidneys
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Skin conditions

Type 2 diabetes complications:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart and blood vessel disease, Stroke
  • Amputation
  • High cholesterol
  • Blindness
  • Non alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Kidney problems
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a condition is which the body starts breaking down fats for energy instead of carbohydrates. This is a fatal condition 

How can you prevent child diabetes?

While it is not really possible to prevent diabetes you can always inculcate a healthy lifestyle for your child to reduce the risks of developing the disease. Here are some measures you might want to consider:

  • Making sure that your child follows a healthy diet comprising lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and limited intake of refined sugars and carbohydrates.
  • Ensure that your child is physically active.
  • Scheduling timely visits to the doctor to keep a check on the blood sugar level.

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