Diabetes is a disorder in which the body can no longer process blood sugar (glucose). This is because diabetics can no longer produce insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that aids in the regulation of glucose in the body. The glucose can therefore not be processed, depriving the body of energy for movement, growth and repair. High levels of glucose in your bloodstream can lead to damage to your vital organs. The exact cause of diabetes is unknown and there is no cure.
It is thought to be linked to:
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It is released into the blood stream when glucose levels rise, and enables the cells in our bodies to process the glucose and function. In children the main form of diabetes seen is Type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes. To stay alive, people with type 1 diabetes must have a constant supply of insulin through injections or an insulin pump. People with type 1 diabetes must be constantly prepared for potential hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycaemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening. They test their blood sugar levels by pricking their fingers at least four times a day.
Diabetes is becoming more prevalent as children become increasingly overweight and are undertaking less physical activity. Diabetes presents many challenges for daily living, especially for children. This includes managing insulin injections, dealing with 'hypos' or low blood glucose levels and ensuring an adequate diet.
The symptoms of diabetes include:
A child or teenager newly diagnosed with diabetes may feel a range of emotions ranging from shock to anger. Common concerns include:
It is possible to manage the condition and lead a normal life. Parents should ensure children try follow these guidelines:
If you think you may have diabetes, or need help with a recently diagnosed child see your doctor or a dietitian as soon as possible.