Diabetes in Children

November 20, 2019
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Childhood is often full of picky eating, playing with friends, and learning. As a parent, you want your child to live a normal and healthy life. But sometimes, their genetics, environment, lifestyle, or unknown factors can impact their health. This is sometimes the case with diabetes. So, how do you know if your child has diabetes, and what can you do to make their life as normal as possible?

What is diabetes?

Diabetes often refers to two types of conditions: type 1, which is an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas not to produce enough insulin, and type 2, which is a chronic disease that affects how the body processes sugar. While both diseases can be managed, they impact the body in different ways.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes causes the immune system to attack and destroys the cells that make insulin. This can cause permanent damage. It’s unclear why these attacks occur, but it’s believed that both genetic and environmental factors — including lifestyle — play a role.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is mostly associated with adults, but can also occur in children. A decrease in insulin production causes a rise in blood sugar. The most common cause of type 2 diabetes is usually obesity — with lack of exercise and overeating playing a role — but another cause may include genetics.

Signs of Diabetes in Children

Signs of Type 1 Diabetes in Children

Signs of type 1 diabetes typically develop rapidly – over the course of a few weeks. They may start with extreme thirst or hunger, but other symptoms may develop, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or behavior changes
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Yeast infection
  • Frequent urination
  • Cut/bruises that are slow to heal

Signs of Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Signs of type 2 diabetes are trickier. Some children will show no symptoms, and the disease develops gradually – making signs difficult to detect. In those cases, type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed during a routine physical exam. For the cases that demonstrate symptoms, children might experience:

  • Increase in thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections

Risks of Diabetes

Certain factors can raise your child’s risk of developing type 1 or 2 diabetes. These risks include, but are not limited to:

  • Family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Race
  • Weight
  • Inactivity
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Viruses that trigger autoimmune destruction
  • Diet – specifically the introduction of cow’s milk vs breast milk

Complications of Diabetes

Complications of Type 1 Diabetes

Since type 1 diabetes impacts blood sugar levels, it’s imperative that you keep them under control. If left uncontrolled over a prolonged period of time, diabetes can become disabling or life-threatening. The most common complications include the following:

  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye damage
  • Skin conditions
  • Osteoporosis

Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

As type 2 diabetes develops gradually, so do the complications associated with the disease. But, type 2 can impact every major organ in your child’s body – including blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys. That’s why complications can be disabling or life-threatening. The most common type 2 complications include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Stroke
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Blindness
  • Amputation
  • Skin conditions

Preventing Diabetes

There is currently no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, but you can keep your child from developing complications by helping them maintain blood sugar control, implementing and teaching them the importance of a healthy diet, and scheduling regular visits with their doctor. This may include a yearly eye exam that should begin no more than five years after the initial diagnosis.

For type 2 diabetes, implementing healthy lifestyle changes can often prevent the disease and any of its complications. If your child already has the disease, it can help reduce the need for medications and lower the risk of complications developing. Encourage your child to eat healthy foods — including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — and get active by participating in sports or other physical activities.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child who has diabetes. Homecare providers offer the support you or your loved one needs.

That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids are here to help. Our home care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent caregivers to provide customized care for families – from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.