Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires close attention. With some practical knowledge, you can become your child’s crucial ally in dealing with the disease.
How does diabetes affect your body?
Diabetes affects the way our body uses glucose. Glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood, comes from the food we eat. It is also the major source of energy needed to bolster the functions performed by the body.
After you finish a meal, your body breaks down the food into glucose and other nutrients. They are then absorbed into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract. Post a meal, the glucose level in the blood rises and signals the pancreas to make the hormone insulin and release it into the bloodstream. However, that’s not the case with people who have diabetes. For people with diabetes, the body fails to respond to the insulin properly.
Insulin is crucial for smooth functioning of the body. Without insulin, glucose can’t get into the cells and stays in the bloodstream. As a result of which the sugar level in the blood tends of remain higher than normal. High blood sugar levels often lead to innumerable health problems .
What is type 1 diabetes?
There are two major types of diabetes:
- Type 1 (Insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes)
- Type 2 (Non insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes)
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes act the same, i.e., cause blood sugar levels to become higher than normal. Their mode of causing it is however different. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas loses its ability to create the hormone insulin. What happens is that the person’s own immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. There lies the bad news. Once those cells are destroyed, they won’t ever make insulin again.
Although no one knows the certain reason behind this, scientists think it has something to do with genes, though not entirely that. A person probably would then have to be exposed to something else – like a virus – to get type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. In addition to that, there is no practical way to predict who will get it. Once a person has type 1 diabetes, it does not just vanish, and requires lifelong treatment. Children and teens with type 1 diabetes depend on daily insulin injections or an insulin pump to control their blood glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes is different from type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s inability to respond to insulin normally. Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, most people with type 2 diabetes can still produce insulin, but not enough to meet their body’s needs.
Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes
It is possible for a person to have diabetes without knowing that he has it, mostly because the symptoms aren’t always obvious and they can take a long time to develop. Parents of a child with typical symptoms of type 1 diabetes may notice the following signs in their child:
- Urinates frequently and in larger volumes: Kidneys respond to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream by flushing out the extra glucose in urine.
- Is abnormally thirsty and drinks a lot of water: To keep the level of body water normal. He or she may have lost a lot of fluid by urinating.
- Loses weight (or fails to gain weight as he or she grows): This happens despite of a good appetite. This is because the body breaks down muscle and stored fat in an attempt to provide fuel to the hungry cells.
- Feels tired often: That happens because the body cannot use glucose for energy properly.
However that doesn’t happen in all cases. There are other symptoms that may signal that something is wrong, which includes
- Bedwetting in a child who has been dry at night.
- Possibility of diabetes should also be suspected if a vaginal yeast infection (also called a candida infection) occurs in a girl who hasn’t started puberty yet.
If these early symptoms of diabetes are not recognised and the treatment doesn’t begin on time, chemicals called ketones can build up in the child’s blood, and cause stomach pain, fruity smelling breath, nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, and even loss of consciousness. There are times when these symptoms are mistaken for flu or appendicitis. Doctors call this serious condition diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA.
Find out how you have done overall
Checking your blood sugar at home tells what your blood sugar level is at any one time. But if you want to know how you have performed overall, got for A1C, also known as glycated haemoglobin or HbA1C test, which gives you a clear picture of your average blood glucose control for the past two to three months. The results give you a good idea about the success of your diabetes treatment plan.
To watch your overall glucose control, your doctor should measure A1C level at least twice a year. This is the minimum. There are times when you need to have your A1C level tested every three months. If you change diabetes treatment, such as start a new medicine, or if you are not meeting your blood glucose goals, you and your doctor will want to keep a closer eye on your control.
Living with type 1 diabetes
Living with diabetes is a challenge, no matter what is the child’s age. Young children may not understand why the blood samples and insulin injections are necessary. They may act against you demands, be scared, angry, or uncooperative. Teens with diabetes may feel frustrated when the natural adolescent body changes during puberty. This may make their diabetes somewhat harder to control. In such cases, parents need to guide their children, help them understand that monitoring and controlling glucose levels important for them. Here are the things to follow for children with diabetes.
- Check blood sugar levels a few times a day by testing a small blood sample.
- Give themselves insulin injections, or have an adult give them injections, or use an insulin pump.
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet and pay special attention to the amounts of sugars and starches in the food they eat and the timing of their meals.
- Get regular exercise to help control blood sugar levels and help avoid some of the long-term health problems that diabetes can cause, like heart disease.
- Work closely with their doctor and diabetes healthcare team to help achieve the best possible control of their diabetes and be monitored for signs of complications and other health problems that occur more frequently in children with type 1 diabetes.
Parents can do a great deal in helping their children lead a happier and healthier lives by giving encouraging them constantly. They should also make sure that their children eat properly, exercise, and stay on top of blood sugar control every day.