ailments

Diabetes

By Dr Evelyn Lewin

There are two types of diabetes (types 1 and 2). Children and adolescents are mainly affected by type 1 diabetes; type 2 is rare in these age groups. In type 1 diabetes, the child’s ability to make insulin is impaired. Insulin is an important hormone made in the pancreas. It ensures glucose (a type of sugar) is taken out of the bloodstream, and transferred into cells. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. This can cause damage to the eyes, nerves and kidneys, among other health problems. Also, because sugar cannot enter the cells, cells lack energy for important processes. While there is no current cure for type 1 diabetes, daily insulin manages the condition by regulating blood sugar levels. With proper management, children with diabetes can lead full, active lives.

symptoms

  • Children with diabetes may be tired, have increased urination (wee more) and increased thirst. They may be more prone to infections. Some also lose weight.
  • Children with diabetes may become acutely unwell. They can become dehydrated, start vomiting and may lose consciousness, or ‘black out’. This is called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and is a medical emergency.
  • If your child is unwell and you suspect diabetes, call an ambulance and seek urgent medical care.
  • Diabetes is diagnosed by blood tests. After diagnosis, your child will need a full ‘workup’. This may involve a range of health professionals, including a diabetes educator, paediatric dietitian, paediatrician and/or a paediatric endocrinologist.
  • You and your child will need to learn how to check your child’s blood sugar levels. This is done via pinprick test. A health professional will teach you how to use the necessary equipment.
  • You will then need to learn how to administer insulin. The aim is to keep blood sugar levels steady, to avoid them dipping too low (causing a hypoglycemic episode, known as a ‘hypo’), or going too high (causing hyperglycemia).
  • Your doctor will explain what to do if your child’s sugar levels go too low or high. If this happens and you are concerned for your child’s health and unsure what to do, or your diabetic child is unwell, call an ambulance and seek urgent medical care.

treatment

If your child is unwell and you suspect diabetes, call an ambulance and seek urgent medical care.

Diabetes is diagnosed by blood tests. After diagnosis, your child will need a full ‘workup’. This may involve a range of health professionals, including a diabetes educator, paediatric dietitian, paediatrician and/or a paediatric endocrinologist.

You and your child will need to learn how to check your child’s blood sugar levels. This is done via pinprick test. A health professional will teach you how to use the necessary equipment.

You will then need to learn how to administer insulin. The aim is to keep blood sugar levels steady, to avoid them dipping too low (causing a hypoglycemic episode, known as a ‘hypo’), or going too high (causing hyperglycemia).

Your doctor will explain what to do if your child’s sugar levels go too low or high. If this happens and you are concerned for your child’s health and unsure what to do, or your diabetic child is unwell, call an ambulance and seek urgent medical care.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
  • current version

    Evelyn Lewin
  • PEER REVIEWER

    Evelyn Lewin
  • document id

    12232015
  • next review

    22.06.2016

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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