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Childhood Diabetes

Childhood diabetes is a serious and chronic metabolic illness caused by a deficiency in pancreatic insulin secretion. Without sufficient insulin secretion, the body cannot metabolize, or break down, glucose and properly store it. This leads to inappropriately high levels of glucose in the blood, potentially causing a number of serious health issues.

Diabetes Type I

Type I diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, occurs as a result of the autoimmune system’s destruction of pancreatic cells (B cells) that produce the hormone insulin. Researchers believe that a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors work together to set a process in motion that causes the body’s own immune system to destroy the cells that secrete insulin. There is no cure for diabetes, but patients avoid the symptoms and complications associated with the disease through insulin injections and lifestyle choices. Those with diabetes type I will need insulin injections for the duration of their lives.

Although this type of diabetes can occur in children under the age of 5 years, it is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 12 years and most often before a person reaches 30 years. The majority of children diagnosed with type I diabetes have no family history of the disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Type I

The primary signs of juvenile diabetes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Extraordinary thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Marked hunger, even though weight loss is present
  • Blurred vision

Additional symptoms common in children include:

  • Recurring stomachache
  • Frequent headaches
  • Labored breathing

Ketoacidosis may occur in some children before diabetes is considered. When the body cannot utilize glucose in the blood stream for cellular energy, it begins to break down fats to use as an energy source. Byproducts of this metabolic process are called ketones; ketoacidosis is characterized by elevated ketone levels in the blood and urine. This is a serious condition and can result in death if the child does not receive immediate emergency treatment. Children with inappropriately high blood and urine ketone levels may begin to vomit, become drowsy, dehydrated, and comatose.

Treatment of Diabetes Type I

Pediatric physicians will work with parents to formulate an insulin management plan, which will state how much insulin to give and how often. Medical educators, such as a nurse or other professional will teach the parents how to inject the insulin. Parents will also learn how to give the necessary and frequent blood tests as well as how to interpret them. The blood tests tell how much glucose is in the blood – a snapshot of how well the current insulin therapy schedule is working.

Diabetes Type II

This disease usually affects older adults, but young people can get diabetes type II, especially if they are overweight. With the rising incidence of childhood obesity, the occurrence of type II diabetes in children is rising. Even so, most children diagnosed with diabetes have type I. With type II diabetes, the pancreas secretes insulin but it does not work properly due to insulin resistance. This insulin resistance causes chronically elevated blood glucose levels resulting in hyperglycemia and, eventually, diabetes. While a genetic component exists in diabetes type II, the primary risk factor is overweight and a sedentary lifestyle.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Type II

Type II diabetes is often not diagnosed until complications have begun because the signs and symptoms are not as apparent as those of type I. Symptoms often overlap some of those associated with type I along with others. Symptoms include:

  • Frequent bladder infections
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores or cuts that heal slowly
  • Itchy hands and feet
  • Tingling sensation or numbness in hands and feet

Treatment of Diabetes Type II

Most children and adults with type II diabetes do not use insulin injections to manage blood glucose levels. Instead, a special regimen of diet and regular exercise is prescribed. Some may need to take medications that help the body respond more appropriately to insulin.


Source by Samantha Gluck

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