Diabetes is a disease in which the body is either unable to produce insulin or unable to use insulin well. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps cells throughout the body absorb glucose, a type of sugar. Captain Darin, can you tell us more?
Certainly, Dr. Connolly. Glucose is an important source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and tissues. It's also the brain's main source of fuel. If the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or if the body doesn't use insulin well, glucose can't get into the cells to provide this energy.
Diabetes is classified as type 1 or type 2. Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes accounts for almost all diabetes in children younger than 10.
In type 2 diabetes, the body's ability to produce and use insulin is impaired, often as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity and inactivity are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Although type 2 diabetes once occurred mainly in overweight adults over 40, today, it is increasingly found in overweight children age 10 to 19. The good news is that lifestyle choices can help prevent type 2 diabetes in children.
Both types of diabetes result in too much glucose accumulating in the blood. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to life-threatening complications, including problems with the heart and blood vessels, kidney disease, nerve damage, and blindness.
Frequent urination, drinking or eating more than usual, losing weight, and getting tired and ill frequently can be signs of diabetes. Young children and even infants can get type 1 diabetes, so if your child has these symptoms, it's important to see your child's provider right away.
A diagnosis of diabetes in children can be overwhelming at first, but fortunately, both types of diabetes are treatable. Diabetes in children requires consistent care, but recent advances have made daily management easier.