Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that is increasing amongst youth. It affects the body’s ability to process sugar or glucose. Without medication and effective diabetes management, it can lead to a build-up of sugar in the blood, thus leading to long-term health complications. Though Type 2 diabetes has been common in adults, the condition has fuelled amongst kids as well. Let’s understand in detail about diabetes in children and how to prevent it.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
- There is no exact cause of type 2 diabetes. However, genetics play a crucial role along with obesity and inactivity.
- One factor clear about Type-2 diabetes is the body’s inability to process glucose. Thus, resulting in difficulty of producing energy for cells and muscles
- The sugar is produced from the food consumed. In order to convert sugar into energy, the body requires a hormone called insulin.
- Insulin is produced by a gland called the pancreas, located behind the stomach. As soon as the food enters the stomach, the pancreas releases insulin to breakdown the food.
- As insulin circulates, it allows sugar to enter the cells and therefore decreases blood sugar levels.
- Type 2 diabetes is a condition developed when the body resists producing enough insulin that leads to an increase in the blood sugar level.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children
The symptoms of Type-2 diabetes are not easily identifiable. In fact, many people don’t even realise developing any symptoms. However, here are the common signs to lookout for:
In case the child feels inexplicably tired/sleepy, the high sugar levels are affecting the energy levels.
Another common sign to lookout for is an excessive need to urinate. This happens when blood sugar levels lead to the extra sugar going into the urine.
When the child experiences frequent urination, the need for water or anything to quench the thirst might look normal, but it’s not.
Since the body is unable to produce energy, it might lead to increased hunger.
Insulin resistance can cause skin to darken, most commonly in the armpits and neck. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans.
Here are a few common risk factors for diabetes in children:
- Weight: One of the major factors for diabetes is being overweight. More fatty tissues mean more resistance from the body to produce insulin and reduce blood sugar levels.
- Inactivity: Less activity or body inactivity can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is why physical activity is necessary as it helps your child manage his/her weight.
- Family history: The risk increases when either of the parent or sibling has diabetes. Diabetes can be hereditary too.
- Age and sex: The probability of developing type 2 diabetes in their early teens is higher. Moreover, various studies have indicated that adolescent girls are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than boys.
- Birth weight and gestational diabetes: One’s birth weight can also be one of the factors for diabetes. Gestational diabetes in mothers can also lead to early diabetes diagnosis in kids.
It is difficult to ignore the fact that diabetes is a progressive condition and affects the organs over the course of time. Here are a few complications that may develop if sugar levels are not controlled in time:
- Kidney disease
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- High blood pressure
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- High cholesterol
One of the best and effective ways to prevent and manage diabetes is to opt for healthy lifestyle choices. A child with type 2 diabetes can reduce his/her dependency by making small lifestyle changes. Other things to encourage your child are to:
- Eat healthy foods: It is better to opt for foods that are low in fat. Consume more natural sugar such as in fruits. Increase your consumption of vegetables and whole grains.
- Get more physical activity: Physical activity is as important as a healthy diet. In fact, one can encourage their child by involving all family members to make it a merrier time.
All About Managing Type 1 Diabetes
Also called an auto-immune condition, Type 1 diabetes in children is where your body is not able to produce insulin. In order to survive, the child is given external insulin in the form of injections or an insulin pump. The condition in children is also termed juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. From diagnosis to diabetes management, the journey of a Type-1 diabetes in child can be overwhelming. While there is no cure for type 1 diabetes in children, it can surely be managed.
Causes of Type-1 Diabetes in Children
- Just like Type-2 diabetes, the reasons for developing type 1 diabetes are unknown. However, in many cases, the immune system of the body mistakenly destroys cells that produce insulin. Studies indicate the role of genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role in this process.
- When the cells are destroyed, the body is left with little or no insulin, thus limiting the function of the hormone. Insulin plays a critical role in providing sugar to cells as energy.
- However, without enough or no insulin, sugar starts building up in the bloodstream, thus leading to untreated health complications
Symptoms of Type-1 Diabetes in Children
Unlike Type 2 diabetes, the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children develop quickly. They include:
- Frequent urination, possibly bed-wetting
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
- Irritability or behaviour changes
- Fruity-smelling breath or weird breath
Risk factors of Type-1 Diabetes in Children
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes in children include:
- Family history: Type 1 diabetes is commonly seen in children whose parents or siblings are diagnosed with the same condition.
- Genetics: It is surprising to see that certain genes indicate an increase in risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
- Certain viruses: It is reported that exposure to various viruses can trigger the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells.
Development of Type 1 diabetes can cause major complications to the organs of the body. Therefore, it is important to keep taking precautions to keep the blood sugar within or around the normal range. The various complications that arise due to diabetes include:
- Eye damage
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- Kidney damage
- Nerve damage
Prevention of Type-1 Diabetes
Since it is a condition developed in the body not due to external factors, there is not much one can do about it. However, here are a few ways that can help in preventing complications:
- Encourage your child to manage sugar levels and keep it in or around the normal range
- Educate the child about the good and bad results of consuming different types of foods. In fact, make him understand what a healthy balanced diet and physical activity can do to his/her sugar levels
- Schedule frequent appointments with your diabetes educator or doctor for him to discuss progress.
Diabetes is an overwhelming condition for kids and adults alike. Hence, the need to accept the condition and make it part of the journey might look difficult but necessary. It is always important to talk to your child and diabetes educator to make the process easier for them.