This is part two of a focus on diabetes. Last month
explained the Type 2 diabetes epidemic in kids. To read it, click
Diabetes is a shocking diagnosis for parents to
hear, but with treatment and education, children who have Type 1
diabetes can lead normal, healthy, active lives.
Type 1 (formerly called juvenile or insulin dependent) is
a lifelong condition that occurs when the pancreas fails to produce
enoughinsulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps
move blood sugar into cells where it is stored
for energy use. Without insulin, blood sugar levels rise rapidly
and can cause severe illness and death.
There is no known cure, so children with Type 1 diabetes must
take insulin to replace what is not being produced by the pancreas.
The exact cause of diabetes is unknown, but most likely the body's
white blood cells mistakenly attack the insulin-producing cells in
the pancreas and destroy them. Genetic factors and environmental
factors are thought to play a role.
Some people with diabetes will have no symptoms and are
diagnosed during routine testing. Other children complain of
feeling tired, unusually hungry, very thirsty, urinating more
frequently or having unexplained weight loss. About one in three
children are diagnosed with diabetes when they develop a very
serious illness called ketoacidosis, which often requires
hospitalization to get blood sugar levels under control.
Diabetes is diagnosed by checking blood sugar
When a child is diagnosed with diabetes, it is critically
important for both the parents and the child to become well
educated in its management.
Treatment is very effective, but it requires a good
understanding of how insulin works and how to manage problems that
arise. Ideally, every child newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes
should be evaluated by a diabetes team consisting of a pediatric
endocrinologist, a nurse educator, a dietitian and a mental health
professional qualified to provide up-to-date childhood-specific
education and support.
Some basic things that every family needs to know
It's important to manage Type 1 diabetes carefully and
consistently because complications develop over the span of many
years and can affect the heart, blood vessels, nerves (neuropathy),
eyes (retinopathy) and kidneys (nephropathy).
The good news is that keeping blood sugar levels close to
normal most of the time can dramatically reduce the risk of these
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital. She also is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
See more of Dr. Thornton's stories here.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.