Diabetes mellitus, the silent killer that claims millions of lives worldwide, is generally understood as a disease that affects adults. The risk of the chronic condition tends to go up after the age of 35. But despite what we know about diabetes as a “grown-up” disease, it doesn’t spare children either. Juvenile diabetes or type 1 diabetes is seen mostly in children, adolescents and young adults. And until recently, type 2 diabetes in children was unheard of. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children are now growing increasingly susceptible to type 2 diabetes, which was earlier known as adult-onset diabetes. November 14 observes both Children's Day and World Diabetes Day, making it a perfect occasion to talk about diabetes in children.
What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is seen mostly in children and young adults. It’s an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system, for inexplicable reasons, attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of The Chronic Disease Caused By High Blood Sugar.
Without enough insulin, there will be an excess of sugar in the bloodstream, which will eventually wear down internal organs and the blood vessels.
According to CDC, the reason could be hereditary or due to a virus. But the medical fraternity hasn’t quite zeroed down on the cause yet. As of now, there is no means to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children are the same as those of type 2. They frequently need to urinate, are constantly thirsty, feel fatigued often and lose weight as they grow.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes in Children?
Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes, seen mostly in people above age 35. With the obesity epidemic rising among children, cases of type 2 are also on the upward trend among children. 5 Reasons Why This Year’s Theme ‘The Family and Diabetes’ is Important.
In some parts of the world, type 2 has become the main type of diabetes in children, according to WHO.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 is caused due to the body’s own resistance to insulin or because the pancreas doesn't produce enough of the hormone.
Obesity and excessive fat make it harder for the body to respond to insulin and a sedentary lifestyle makes things worse. Pubescent children are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.
CDC says that the risk goes up if the child has a family member who has type 2 diabetes, if the mother had gestational diabetes or has conditions related to insulin resistance.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children include frequent urination, fatigue, excessive thirst, increased hunger, slow healing wounds, dark skin on the skin folds, etc.
Risks of Diabetes in Children
Both types of diabetes results in excessive blood sugar levels in children. Diseases of the eyes, nerve and kidney problems are seen. Apart from this, type 2 also causes complications like heart and vascular problems.
What Parents Should Know
This year, World Diabetes Day focuses on ‘The Family and Diabetes’ to highlight the role played by family in managing the disease and improve health outcomes. Parents should watch out for the early symptoms of diabetes in kids. Major complications can be avoided if the sugar levels are managed.
While type 1 can’t be prevented, type 2 diabetes can be to a large extent by encouraging an active lifestyle and a healthy diet.
Encourage the child to drink more water, eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, stay away from junk food and promote a healthy lifestyle. Make healthier meals and teach children about the importance of nutrition. Parents should also regulate the child’s food intake by serving small portions.
If the child has type 1 diabetes, the parents have to have a hands-on approach. Everything from the child’s diet to insulin injections should be managed by them.
Parents also should also interact more with doctors who are treating their child to gain better insights about their health.