Diabetes (DYE-uh-BEE-tees) is a disease that stops the pancreas from making insulin. Insulin (in-SUH-lin) is a hormone the body uses to help glucose (sugar) get into your cells and give them energy. If the body doesn’t make enough insulin, too much glucose stays in the blood. Over time, high glucose levels can lead to problems with the heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums, and teeth.
There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is most common in children and young adults. It is not known what causes Type 1 diabetes—but it is not caused by lifestyle factors or eating too much sugar Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults. It is affected by lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight (obese).
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes may include:
- Being very thirsty
- Being very hungry
- Urinating often
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying
- Having sores that heal slowly
- Having dry, itchy skin
- Losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feel
- Having blurry eyesight
You should bring your child to the doctor if they have any of the symptoms listed above, or if you think your child may have type 1 diabetes. You should also tell your doctor if there is a family history of type 1 diabetes, since this can increase the chance that your child has this disease.
Your doctor can use a blood test to diagnose diabetes in your child. This test can show if your child’s blood glucose (blood sugar) level is too high. Even though you can buy blood sugar testing equipment at the pharmacy, these tools cannot be used to diagnose diabetes on your own. Diabetes must be diagnosed by a doctor.
Talking to your doctor as soon as you notice the symptoms of type 1 diabetes in your child can help prevent other problems caused by this disease.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that can be managed with treatment. Insulin therapy treatments can be used to give your child a healthy life and reduce the chance of problems caused by the disease.
Type 1 diabetes causes symptoms because the child’s body is not able to make the insulin it needs to convert glucose into energy. Insulin therapy is a treatment that gives the child’s body the insulin it needs. There are several ways that a child can take this medicine:
- Needle and syringe. You can give your child a shot of insulin using a needle and syringe. To do this, you take a dose of insulin from the vial into the syringe and inject it into your child’s belly. You can also inject the medicine in your child’s thigh, buttocks, or upper arm. Depending on the person, 1 to 4 shots per day may be needed. If your child is old enough, they can learn to inject themselves with insulin on their own.
- Pen. An insulin pen looks like a pen but has a needle for its points. Some insulin pens are filled with insulin and are disposable after one use. Other pens have a space where you can put a cartridge of insulin in and replace the cartridge after each use. Pens work the same way as a needle and syringe, but many people find them less hard to use.
- Pump. An insulin pump is a small machine that can give your child small doses of insulin throughout the day. This pump can be worn outside of your child’s body, on a belt or in a pocket or pouch. The pump connects to a small plastic tube and a very small needle. You can help your child insert the needle under their skin, where it will stay for several days. Insulin pumps from the machine through the tube 24 hours a day, and can be controlled to give extra insulin during mealtimes.