Understanding Diabetes in Children
In past decades, type 1 diabetes was the most common form of the condition to affect children. While this is still the case, the increase in childhood obesity has brought about an increase of type 2 diabetes in children.
Diabetes is a potentially life-threatening disease and it is important for parents to be aware of how to detect diabetes in children. This is especially so if there is a genetic tendency towards the condition. There are a number of signs to look out for that are specific to diabetes and being aware of these can lead to an early diagnosis and treatment.
The Signs and Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes in Children
Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children often develop fairly quickly over the space of a few weeks. This type of diabetes is caused by the failure of the pancreas to manufacture insulin. As sugar builds up in the bloodstream, the following signs begin to appear:
- The child develops an insatiable thirst which is accompanied by frequent urination. This is caused by the excess sugar in the blood that pulls fluid away from body tissues. This causes dehydration resulting in extreme thirst.
- Bed wetting is possible and urinary tract infections may develop due to the sugar in the urine.
- Because the glucose in the blood does not reach the body’s cells, the child may feel hungry and is not satisfied, even after eating a large meal.
- When the pancreas fails to produce insulin, the body will start breaking down fat and muscle to supply energy. This process results in weight loss, even if the child is eating well. It also leads to the formation of ketones which will eventually result in ketoacidosis. This is characterized by slow breathing and sweet, fruity breath. If not treated, the child may eventually lapse into a coma.
- Other signs of type 1 diabetes include blurred vision due to the lack of fluid in the eyes and fatigue caused by the lack of energy to the muscles.
The Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
It should be noted that the onset of type 2 diabetes is usually more gradual than type 1. In some cases, symptoms are so slight as to be unnoticeable. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the resistance of the body to the insulin that is produced. The signs that accompany type 1 diabetes may be present in a milder form, as well as the following symptoms:
- The child is overweight and there is a family history of type 2 diabetes.
- Some children may develop darkened patches of skin called acanthosis nigricans. These commonly appear in the armpits and on the neck and are a sign of insulin resistance.
- Sores are slow to heal and the child may suffer from repeated infections.
Knowing how to detect diabetes in children can save lives and minimize the damage to their bodies. It is especially important for people who have a genetic predisposition to diabetes to know what to look out for in their children.
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