Know the symptoms of diabetes in your child
According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 193,000 Americans under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes. That's about 0.24 percent of that demographic.
And those are the cases that are diagnosed. Much of the danger of the disease is that it can often go undiagnosed until damage is done, as the symptoms for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are subtle and can be easily overlooked. In addition to a family history of diabetes, here are some of the warning signs you should watch for in your child:
• Excessive thirst
• Increased and frequent urination
• Weight loss
• Lack of interest in former activities
Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are diagnosed with simple blood and urine tests, typically performed at the doctor's office. These tests will determine if your child has diabetes and, if so, which type.
Type 1 diabetes, which is also known as juvenile diabetes, is the result of the child's pancreas not producing insulin. This hormone is needed by the body to convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy. For children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, blood sugar levels must be regularly monitored and insulin injections are prescribed to take over for the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes, or insulin resistance, occurs when the pancreas produces insulin, but blood glucose levels are chronically high. This is often due to some combination of excess weight, unhealthy eating and a sedentary lifestyle. With Type 2 diabetes, the child's body compensates for the high blood glucose levels by producing more and more insulin, eventually wearing out the pancreas until it becomes unable to produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels in check. Once nearly unheard of in children, Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in youth.
Type 2 diabetes can often be managed with a change in eating habits and increased activity. The child may need to lose weight; however, weight loss must be approached differently for children than adults to prevent the onset of other health problems, so your child's doctor should always be consulted. In some cases, blood sugar levels may not be managed with lifestyle changes alone, so medication or insulin may be needed.
Early detection of diabetes is important. If you think your child is showing the symptoms of diabetes, don't delay. Left untreated, diabetes can cause heart, kidney and other organ damage and, in some extreme cases, may be fatal.
But advances in diabetes care make it possible for children, and their parents, to manage the condition for happy, healthy lives.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health. To check out more information, please visit www.amitahealth.org.