One of the most common and deadly diseases affecting children worldwide is Diabetes, especially Type 1 Diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 out of every 400 children suffers from Diabetes. Although Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes is the most commonly occurring Diabetes type among children, the last few decades have witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of children affected with Type 2 Diabetes (usually diagnosed in adults aged 40 years or above). Obesity, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits are some of the major factors that contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes in children.
What causes Diabetes in children?
The exact causes of Diabetes in children are yet to be understood. However, scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors have a role in triggering this disease. It has been observed that most of the children with Diabetes don’t have a family history of this disease.
Symptoms of childhood Diabetes
The symptoms of childhood Diabetes, which usually appear within a period of a few weeks, are more or less the same as those seen in diabetic adults. These symptoms include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Rapid weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Behavior issues
- Blurred vision
- Genital yeast infection in girls
Complications that may develop in children with Diabetes
As in the case of adults, Type 1 Diabetes can cause severe long term complications in children as well. The danger of being affected with Diabetes is that, unlike other diseases, this condition is capable of interfering with the proper functioning of all vital organs of the body such as the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves and skin. Therefore without proper controlling of the blood sugar level, this disease can turn deadly. The following are some of the Diabetes-related complications that may arise if the disease is poorly managed:
- Heart disease (Heart Attack, Angina)
- Kidney disease or Nephropathy
- Eye complications (Retinopathy, Cataract, Glaucoma)
- Foot complications (Foot Ulcers, Infections, Amputation)
- Skin complications (Itching, Bacterial and Fungal infections)
- Problems with the Brain (Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease)
Treatment of childhood Diabetes
Since Type 1 Diabetes causes the destruction of the Insulin producing Beta cells, the most important method of treating this condition would be Insulin treatment. The difficult part of treatment is that children with Diabetes have to live their entire lives with routine blood tests, constant monitoring of blood sugar level, Insulin injections, diet and physical exercise. The treatment methods for Diabetes in children generally include:
- Monitoring of blood sugar level – Blood tests using finger sticks may have to be done several times a day to make sure that the sugar level is within the target range.
- Insulin treatment – Insulin is required for Type 1 Diabetics to survive. It cannot be taken orally as the enzymes in the stomach interfere with its action. Insulin is therefore delivered in the form of injections or using Insulin pumps. The Insulin pump is worn outside the body and is connected to a catheter inserted in to the skin beneath the abdomen. This pump is capable of automatically dispensing specific amounts of Insulin as and when required.
- Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet
- Regular physical activity
How to prevent Diabetes in children
As of now, there are no known ways to prevent the onset of Type 1 Diabetes. The only thing you can do is to help your child prevent further complications by managing the disease as effectively as possible. Make sure to take your child to the doctor regularly to ensure that there are no complications.
The factors that are considered to increase the risk of Diabetes in children include
- Family history of Diabetes
- Presence of certain genes
- Exposure to viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus or coxsackievirus
- Dietary factors
- Low Vitamin D levels
Many people are overwhelmed when they realize that their child is suffering from Diabetes. As much as frustrating and devastating the situation can be, there is no point in mourning over your child’s condition, because it’s not going to help your child in any way. The treatment methods and Diabetes management can seem to be rather tough during the initial stages. Supporting and helping your child deal with the disease by proper control of blood sugar level is the best thing you can do as a parent.