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Recognizing Diabetes Symptoms in Babies

written by: CamillaPeters • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 7/31/2010

The vast majority of babies who are stricken with diabetes are classified as having type 1 diabetes mellitus, meaning that they are dependent on outside sources of insulin. Those who have type 1 diabetes have an inability to synthesize insulin within their pancreases.

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    Usually, type 1 diabetes is caused by the body's own immune system. This can be caused by an illness, stress, or a number of other factors. Babies who have relatives with type 1 diabetes are also predisposed to developing the disease. The American Diabetes Association estimates that out of every 2,000 to 3,000 babies in the United States, five babies are affected by the condition. Diabetes has a number of symptoms that parents should look out for, especially since babies cannot communicate that they do not feel well.

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    Polyuria and Polydipsia

    Stemming from an abnormally large amount of glucose in the kidneys, polyuria is an substantial amount of the flow of urine that comes from a child. When a child is diabetic, they don't produce the insulin needed to release the glucose from the blood as it flows through the kidneys. The kidneys have to get rid of the excess glucose so the body increases the amount of urine it produces, which causes the child to urinate more frequently. For this reason, one of the early warning signs of diabetes in babies is wetting of the bed when it hasn't before been a problem. One of the other effects of this increased urination is dehydration, which is why babies who are diabetic appear to be more thirsty more often, even if they otherwise would be properly hydrated.

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    Weight Loss

    Babies suffering from type 1 diabetes often experience unexplained weight loss. This is because glucose is not absorbed normally into the cells for use as an energy source, so the body uses fat to provide fuel for essential functions. This weight loss occurs even while the child is still hungry and eating more than usual.

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    Diabetic Ketoacidosis

    When left untreated, diabetics can experience a condition called ketoacidosis where ketones build themselves up in the fat cells. These ketones are toxic and cause flu-like symptoms as well as cause the diabetic's breath to exert a "sickly-sweet" smell. The child may hyperventilate and the skin may dry out and appear pale. The website KidsHealth states that this condition can get serious enough for the child to pass out and become unconscious.

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    Other Symptoms

    One common indicator of type 1 diabetes is that babies who are usually peppy and lively suddenly become lazy and lethargic. This is because their bodies no longer properly process sugar and create energy out of it. This can also manifest itself as moodiness and irritability. Girls may also suffer from yeast infections because of the chemical imbalance caused by the inability to process insulin. The Mayo Clinic also says babies are at a higher risk of developing diaper rash when diabetic.