Juvenile diabetes, also known as type 1 diabetes, is a condition in which the pancreas makes little or no insulin, which is a hormone needed to help process sugar into energy. It usually occurs during childhood or adolescence, but has been known to begin in adults.
There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, though there is a lot of active research going on, but it can be managed. With proper education and treatment, those with juvenile or type 1 diabetes can live longer, healthier lives.
Genetics can play a role in if an individual develops type 1 diabetes. If diabetes is something that runs in your family, it is important to know the symptoms so you can watch for them in yourself and your children.
The symptoms can show up rapidly, or they can progress and get worse over time. Some common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Bedwetting may occur in children who previously didn’t wet the bed
- Extreme hunger
- Unintentional weight loss
- Irritability and mood changes
- Blurry vision
- In females, a vaginal yeast infection that is persistent or recurring
If any of these symptoms occur in your child you need to visit your doctor right away.
There is no known cause of juvenile diabetes, but it is thought that genetics can play a role. Exposure to certain environmental factors, for example viruses, may also play a role. It has been found that in most people with type 1 diabetes their own immune system starts attacking the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
If you believe that your child is exhibiting any symptoms of juvenile diabetes and you visit your doctor, there will be several tests that are done to determine if your child has type 1 diabetes or if there is something else causing the symptoms.
The best way to diagnose diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, is through blood work. There are many tests that your doctor will do. A Hemoglobin A1C which helps determine the average blood sugar over the past two to three months is the first choice. If that is not available for some reason, your doctor will do a random blood sugar test to determine what your child’s current blood sugar is, and a fasting blood sugar to determine what your child’s blood sugar is after they haven’t eaten for at least 8 hours.
There are several other blood tests that will done as well. If your child’s blood sugar is high, these tests will help determine if your child is in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Often times, when a child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it is because they are in DKA, so these additional tests will help determine how severe it is.
After your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, your doctor will perform additional tests as needed to help determine the best coarse of treatment.
Type 1 diabetes can affect almost every organ in your body. The extent to how much your organs are affected depends on how well it is treated. This means that blood sugars should be checked and insulin given as ordered by the doctor. Some common complications include:
- Heart disease and blood vessel disease. Diabetes can dramatically increase your risk of heart disease and blood vessel disease.
- Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excessive levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood can injure the tiny blood vessels that supply your nerves with blood. This causes numbness and tingling and most commonly occurs in the feet and legs.
- Kidney damage. For the same reason nerve damage occurs, kidney damage can occur. When the blood vessels that supply the kidneys with blood are damaged, your kidneys will stop working, leading to kidney failure.
- Eye damage. Again, because excessive amounts of sugar in your blood will damage tiny blood vessels, the tiny blood vessels in your retina can be damaged, which may lead to blindness.
There are many other complications that can occur. You can decrease the risk of developing any of these complications by ensuring adequate blood sugar control.
The treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin as ordered, regular blood sugar checks, healthy diet, and regular exercise. There are different types of insulin and different ways to deliver the insulin and your doctor will determine the best coarse of action for your child.
Does juvenile diabetes run in your family? Do you know what symptoms to look for in your child?
If you want to see what else I am covering in the A to Z Challenge, check out my “A” post.