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What are the Warning Signs of Diabetes in Toddlers?

written by: N Nayab • edited by: lrohner • updated: 5/11/2011

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation estimates that 35 children are diagnosed with diabetes each day. Diabetes symptoms in toddlers include frequent urination, fatigue, extreme thirst and excessive hunger accompanied by weight loss.

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    Diabetes Symptoms in Toddlers Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes a buildup of unhealthy levels of sugar, also called glucose, in the blood. The body breaks down the foods that we eat, particularly carbohydrates, into glucose. The pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin that allows the glucose to be absorbed into the body's cells, providing the body with its major supply of fuel to power its activities.

    Type 1 diabetes, affecting one out of every 400 to 600 children and adolescents in the United States, occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces insulin, but the body does not utilize it efficiently. This condition was rare in toddlers in the past, but has become more common as the obesity rates in the country have risen.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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    Causes

    Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes because it is commonly diagnosed in childhood, is passed on through the genes. It is an autoimmune disorder that cues the body to attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to an insufficient supply of insulin. Research on whether any environmental factors might also trigger type 1 diabetes is still inconclusive. Obesity that stresses the pancreas is the chief driver of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes affects people in all age groups, although type 2 diabetes is more common in older people.

    Following are some common signs of diabetes in toddlers. These symptoms only suggest possible diabetes and are not conclusive indicators of the disease.

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    Frequent Urination

    One of the early symptoms of type 1 diabetes symptoms in toddlers may bepolyuria, or frequent urination. Since there is no insulin in the bloodstream to help the body cells absorb the glucose, the level of glucose in the blood raises to higher than normal levels. The kidneys sense this high blood sugar levels and passes it out as urine. The higher the blood sugar level, the more often the toddler urinates.

    Toddlers with diabetes urinate at frequent intervals during the day, often get up in the night to urinate, and may even wet the bed.

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    Extreme Thirst

    When a toddler suffers from diabetes, extreme thirst or polydipsia usually goes hand-in-hand with frequent urination. When the blood sugar passes out as urine, it takes along with it some of the body fluids, eventually causing dehydration. A toddler exhibiting thirst accompanied by frequent urination suggests possible diabetes.

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    Hunger, Fatigue and Weight Loss

    Symptoms also include extreme hunger, accompanied by fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

    Since the body is unable to produce a sufficient amount of energy through insulin and blood glucose, toddlers often display symptoms of fatigue, drowsiness and weakness when suffering from untreated diabetes. The body resorts to converting its supply of fat and protein into energy.This leaves toddlers craving for more food than they normally would as the body struggles to keep up the energy supply and replenish the stores of fat.The inability of the body to absorb sugar from the food leads to rapid weight loss even after consumption of more food.

    A toddler that consumes an excessive amount of food and yet remains hungry or loses weight is a warning sign of diabetes.

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    Secondary Symptoms

    Secondary diabetes symptoms in toddlers include diaper rashes caused by fungal or yeast infections. Such rashes do not go away even after applying medicated cream, because the fungus or yeast flourishes in the sugar-dense urine.

    Bruises and cuts may take longer than normal to heal in a diabetic, because the increased sugar levels in the blood feed bacteria, making healing difficult.

    If the toddler is afflicted with type 2 diabetes you may see obesity and a velvety rash on the toddler’s neck. Those with type 2 diabetes may also exhibit all the above symptoms, though they are usually not as pronounced as they are with type 1.

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    Advanced Symptoms

    Failure to detect early warning signs of untreated diabetes can lead to ketosis. The toddler’s body breaks down fat cells to provide the it with energy, but the brain is unable to use them. Instead, the body produces toxic acids, called ketones, that the brain can use.The kidneys soon become overwhelmed as they try to rid the body of the ketones through urine. The result may first be stomach ache, and then vomiting accompanied with heavy breathing with a fruity, sweet, or wine-like breath.

    Ketoacidosis is a serious condition that can cause unconsciousness, and if left untreated, even death. Untreated diabetes can also cause blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage, gum and skin infections, osteoporosis and loss of limbs due to poor circulation.

    Recognizing the early warning symptoms of diabetes and starting the treatment of blood sugar monitoring, insulin shots, diet control, and exercise at the earliest possible stage help control the diabetes without suffering any serious adverse consequences.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/rachellynnae

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    Disclaimer

    The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advise. This artile not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always check with your physician before taking any products or following any advice you have read on BrightHub.com. Always consult your doctor before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed.

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    References

    1. BabyCenter.com. Diabetes. http://www.babycenter.com/0_diabetes_11423.bc?page=2
    2. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. Warning Signs for Type 1 Diabetes. http://www.jdrf.org/index.cfm?page_id=103498
    3. The Hospital for Sick Children. Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes. http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/diabetes/signs-symptoms.aspx?articleid=7179&categoryid=db-nh1-03

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