School Age Children's Health: Diabetes I

Type I diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes affecting children, accounting for up to 95% of cases in children with diabetes. In fact, type I diabetes is almost exclusively diagnosed in children and young adults, usually under the age of 16. If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes, there are some steps that you can take in order to support your child and help him deal with the symptoms of diabetes.

What is Type I Diabetes?

Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects blood sugar levels as a result of the way the body responds to glucose, the main type of sugar found in the blood. Glucose is derived from food and is the main source of energy required to maintain the functioning of the body. Normally, when glucose enters the system, the body responds by releasing insulin hormones from the pancreas.

Insulin is the hormone responsible for glucose absorption in the cells of the body. For individuals with type I diabetes, the immune system begins to attack and destroy the cells of the pancreas, resulting in a loss of the ability to produce insulin. This in turn results in high blood sugar levels, since glucose is not absorbed into the body.

Type I Diabetes Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of diabetes in children are not always obvious, and the disease may progress slowly. Type I diabetes signs and symptoms in children can include the following:

  • frequent urination as the kidney flushes excess glucose level out of the body
  • frequent thirst since the child is losing fluid due to frequent urination
  • weight loss or an inability to gain weight as she grows. This is because the body derives energy that is stored in muscles or fat in order to compensate for a lack of glucose energy
  • feeling tired as a result of an inability to use glucose for energy

Other symptoms of type I diabetes in children include the following:

If left untreated, the symptoms of diabetes can lead to a serious condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can include symptoms such as fruity breath, nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, and loss of consciousness.

Type I Diabetes Treatment

While there is no cure for type I diabetes, there is treatment available to children with diabetes. Diabetes requires regular treatment and check ups in order to prevent further health complications such as those affecting the eyes, kidney, and heart.

Treatment of type I diabetes in children will usually involve a regular insulin treatment routine by injections or an insulin pump to regulate glucose levels in the blood. An insulin pump is a battery operated device that is attached to a narrow tube inserted under the skin. The pump releases insulin into the bloodstream continuously during the day.

Children with diabetes are usually treated in hospitals, as opposed to by a physician, and the type of insulin routine that each child requires varies depending on the individual case.

Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the most important things that parents of children with diabetes can do is help them maintain healthy and active lifestyles. There are some measures that children can take with the help and support of their parents:

  • making sure your child understands why blood samples and insulin injections are necessary
  • checking blood sugar levels a few times a day
  • eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • paying close attention to the amounts of sugar and starches that are found in foods
  • timing meals
  • getting regular exercise to control glucose levels as well as to avoid long-term complications associated with diabetes
  • working closely with a doctor or diabetes health care team

Many individuals with diabetes follow regular eating schedules in order to better control their diets. It is crucial to follow the treatment guidelines established by your doctor or health care team. Consult these health care providers for specific information regarding your child's case of type I diabetes.