How to Cope with Juvenile and Childhood Diabetes

The diagnosis that a child has Diabetes is a frightening and life altering event that affects the lives of not only the child, but the parents and immediate family as well. Despite the inevitable changes that diabetes will create it is important that parents of children with childhood diabetes realize that it is a disease that is and always will be a part of their lives. A part of their lives that shouldn’t become their entire life

The best way to learn how to incorporate the changes brought on by diabetes into your life is through knowledge of the disease itself. Knowing what diabetes is, what signs and symptoms to look for if you are suspicious of diabetes and in what ways to keep your child happy and healthy after the diagnosis is the first step. The more you learn the easier it will be to live with.

So what exactly is Diabetes? There are two types:
1. Type 1 Diabetes (also known as insulin dependent or juvenile diabetes.)
2. Type 2 Diabetes (non-insulin dependent)

When thinking of children with diabetes we often think solely of Type 1 or Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus.

In Type 1 Diabetes the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. Insulin allows glucose (sugar) to enter your body’s cells where it is then used for energy. Without insulin glucose or sugar levels rise and can eventually cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. Ultimately if left uncontrolled, the risk of damaging the eyes, heart, kidneys and blood vessels is increased.

Each year, approximately 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with type 1 (juvenile) diabetes; over 13,000 of which are children. That’s 35 children each and every day, approximately 1.5 children per hour.

5% to 10% of Diabetics have type 1 Diabetes.

There are more incidences of Type 1 diabetes in Caucasians than any other racial group.

If you are suspicious that your child may have diabetes some of the signs to look for are:
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Extreme thirst
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Frequent urination
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Sudden vision changes
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Sugar in urine
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Increased appetite
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Sudden weight loss
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Drowsiness, lethargy
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Heavy, labored breathing
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Stupor, unconsciousness


Type 2 diabetes is a chronic illness in which the body does not produce enough insulin or is no longer able to use it. For many who develop type 2 diabetes, the body first becomes resistant to insulin before losing the ability to properly use it. Traditionally Type 2 diabetes was known as adult onset diabetes and Type 1 as juvenile diabetes. However the cases of children developing Type 2 is increasing and it is widely believed to be in part due to the rise in childhood obesity.

Most children who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes show little to no signs of the disease. In fact when diagnosed in children, it is normally when the child is seen by a healthcare professional for another reason. However, when there are signs they may be:

�¯�¿�½ * Slight increase in frequency of urination.
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Increased thirst.
�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½�¯�¿�½ * Slight weight loss.

Type 2 diabetics in most cases do not take insulin.

Once diagnosed the most important aspect of living with and caring for a child diagnosed with diabetes is control over blood sugar levels. Daily monitoring of blood glucose levels is the best way to help control and maintain blood sugar levels. Your child’s physician will most likely recommend the use of a blood glucose monitor and can tell you what is a safe range for your child’s blood sugar levels.

Many factors such as stress, growth spurts or illness can have an affect on blood sugar, but there are three specific variables of control in constant need of balancing:

1. Food. Food has a direct effect on blood sugar. It is important to develop a healthy diet for proper control of glucose levels. Avoid refined sugars, fried foods and decrease sodium intake while increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, bake, broil and steam foods and eating more low fat meats like turkey and fish.
2. Exercise. Moderate exercise a mere 30 minutes a day is crucial to controlling diabetes.
3. Medication. It is important to take the correct medications as prescribed by your physician. For persons with type 1 diabetes this means taking your insulin shots as directed. For children with type 2, there are varying pills that can be given in the treatment of diabetes. These medications can: 1.) increase insulin production, 2.) help your body to better utilize its insulin, 3.) slow down the liver’s release of stored sugar into the blood or 4.)slow blood sugar absorption.

If these three variables become off balance there is a risk of having an insulin emergency. These emergencies are called hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and Hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar)

Hypoglycemia is the emergency that is the most likely encountered when caring for a diabetic child. A child may experience low blood sugar as a result of eating too little, not eating soon enough, too much insulin or to much exercise.

Hyperglycemia occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood stream. It can be caused by too much food, not enough insulin or to little exercise, illness or infection.

Another concern primarily amongst Type 1 diabetics is Ketoacidosis (not ketosis) means dangerously high levels of ketones. Ketones are acids that build up in the blood. They appear in the urine when your body doesn’t have enough insulin and can poison the body. They are a warning sign that the diabetes is out of control or that the person with diabetes is getting sick. Ketoacidosis is a diabetic emergency and requires prompt attention by a medical professional.

However, with proper care, support from family and friends, instruction and awareness a child diagnosed with diabetes can expect to live a long and healthy life.

Armed with the basic knowledge of what childhood diabetes is and how it can affect children diagnosed with the disease parents and guardians can build the foundation on which to begin the journey of coping and learning to live with diabetes. The facts found within this article, however should not be used to replace the advice and information that can be given to you by your healthcare professional. If you believe your child is diabetic or you are concerned about a reaction that your diabetic child is having, call your doctor immediately.

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