Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Children’s Hospital.
Could My Child Have Diabetes?
Is your child having to use the restroom more frequently? Waking up in the middle of the night to use the restroom? Or has your previously potty-trained child started wetting the bed again?
Is your child thirsty and hungry all the time and losing weight?
Is your child more tired than usual and less active or more irritable?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may need to make an appointment with your child’s doctor and get tested. The above signs and symptoms may be due to an elevated blood sugar which may be from Diabetes.
What is Diabetes Mellitus?
There are actually many different types of diabetes, but the two main types are type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. We will first focus on type 1 diabetes mellitus in children. This was previously known as insulin dependent diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is one of the most common incurable chronic diseases of children. Statistics suggest that there are more new cases of diabetes in kids each year than new cases of all types of cancer combined.
This is a lifelong condition that occurs where the pancreas (an organ responsible for making insulin, digestive enzymes, and other hormones) doesn’t make enough insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot utilize the sugar in the body and this leads to health problems.
In type 2 diabetes mellitus, the body is able to make insulin but it is being overworked and cannot make enough insulin in the body to keep up with the high amounts of sugar you are taking in. The result of this if you do not see your doctor or manage your health, will lead to similar problems of type 1 diabetes mellitus. Type 2 usually occurs more slowly over time and is associated with being overweight or obese and living an unhealthy lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes was at one time more of an adult disease, but now with the rise in childhood obesity, more and more children are getting diagnosed with type 2.
What is insulin?
Insulin is the hormone that allows the cells in our body to use the sugar in our blood. Without insulin, the amount of sugar in your blood will continue to rise. When the blood sugar rises in the blood (also called hyperglycemia) many problems can occur. When our body’s blood sugar gets too high, this is actually damaging to the cells in our body. High blood sugar is bad for our blood vessels and nerves. Because our blood vessels and nerves can be found everywhere in our bodies, our whole body can be affected by diabetes.
What are the signs and symptoms?
First, when the body initially experiences high blood sugars, we often do not even know it. However, as time goes on, and the blood sugar continues to stay high or rises, our body doesn’t like this. In response, it tries to compensate. We will feel the urgency to use the restroom much more and when this happens, we get thirstier and drink more water. This then causes us to have to go to the restroom more and a vicious cycle develops. As the blood sugar rises and the body is not able to use the sugar for energy, we become more tired or fatigued. Our body becomes constantly hungry looking to convert the food we eat to sugar and then to energy. This, unfortunately, causes our blood sugar to rise even higher and despite eating more, you may start to lose weight. In addition, as a result of high sugar, our eyes can also become affected causing blurry vision. If the sugar levels in your blood gets too high, you can experience nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and even confusion or a coma.
What other health problems can diabetes cause?
Diabetes is a serious health problem because if the disease is not properly controlled, it can lead to loss of eyesight, kidney failure, deterioration of the nervous system, poor wound healing, higher susceptibility to infections, as well as heart and blood vessel disease. These complications can significantly shorten lifespan.
How do I get tested?
If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, you may want to set up an appointment with your child’s doctor to get tested for diabetes. Tests for diabetes can be done with a simple blood test, and depending on those results, your doctor can help guide you in the next steps.
If your child has a 1st or 2nd degree relative with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, your child is eligible to be tested through a special program at Children’s Hospital called Trial Net.
For more information, contact your doctor’s office to set up an appointment.
Additional Resources ::
World Health Organization Fact Sheet
About Peter Tieh, MD
Dr. Tieh is a Pediatric Endocrinologist certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at LSU Health New Orleans, Department of Pediatric Endocrinology. Dr. Tieh is a graduate of Ross University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and fellowship at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Tieh has made New Orleans his new home and now follows 50 pediatric diabetes patients at Children’s Hospital.