According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 1.6 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, including about 187,000 children and adolescents. The ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of diabetes can help your child get diagnosed early, which in turn increases their chance of a better outcome through childhood and into adulthood.
There are 2 different types of diabetes that children can be affected by:
Previously called juvenile diabetes, this disease most commonly appears during childhood or adolescence and happens as a result of the pancreas being unable to produce insulin. Without insulin, sugar cannot move from the blood into the cells, which can result in high blood sugar levels.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children typically develop rapidly over a few weeks and include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Weight loss
- Fruity smell on the breath
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
- Yeast infections in girls
Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and there is no surefire way to know who will get it and who won’t. Doctors think it’s linked to genetics, but genes alone don’t seem to indicate who will be affected by the disease. Early blood tests can find signs of Type 1 diabetes, but there is no way to stop the disease from developing even if it’s detected early. Type 1 diabetes cannot be caused by eating too much sugar.
- Blood sugar monitoring and insulin use for life
- Proper management of diet and exercise to help maintain blood sugar levels within the target range
Type 2 Diabetes is less common in young children, however it is still possible. Type 2 Diabetes is typically the result of these two issues:
- Cells in the liver, muscles and fat are resistant to insulin and as a result do not take in enough sugar to properly function.
- The pancreas cannot create enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes develop more slowly and it may take several months or even years to get a diagnosis. Symptoms include:
- More frequent urination, especially at night
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slow healing of cuts or wounds
- Blurred vision, as the eye’s lens becomes dry
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be prevented in children. While kids and teens might be able to delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes by managing their weight and engaging in physical activity, there are other risk factors for type 2 diabetes that can’t be mitigated. Children with one or more family members with Type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for the disease, with some ethnic and racial groups even more likely to develop it.
Parents can help kids manage their risk for Type 2 diabetes by ensuring they maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to avoid risk factors such as obesity, excessive weight gain, and a sedentary lifestyle.
- Change in diet
- Increased exercise
- Staying at a healthy weight