Diabetes Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is pediatric diabetes?

Pediatric diabetes is a condition in which a child’s blood sugar (also called “glucose”) is too high. We take in sugar through the foods we eat, and insulin, produced in the pancreas, helps get that sugar into our cells to give us energy. If a child’s body does not make enough insulin or use insulin well (insulin resistant), sugar gets into their blood. Too much sugar in the blood causes diabetes.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which cannot be cured but can be managed with insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. As a result, children with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to stay alive. Progressing rapidly within weeks, type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:

  • Family history: Having a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes slightly increases the risk.

  • Genetics: Certain genes are linked to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes.

  • Race: Type 1 diabetes is more common among white children.

Caused when the body does not make insulin or is insulin resistant, type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that develops over time. Type 2 diabetes is generally diagnosed in adults, but an increasing number of children have been diagnosed with the disease. Childhood obesity is thought to be the cause of this increase. While it cannot be cured, type 2 diabetes can go into partial or complete remission if the child loses a significant amount of weight.

Screening for type 2 diabetes is recommended for children that:

  • Are overweight or obese

  • Have started puberty

  • Are 10 years old or older and having at least one of these additional risk factors:

    • Family history of type 2 diabetes
    • Being a non-white race
    • Having signs of insulin resistance, such as darkened skin patches on the neck or armpits

What are the symptoms of pediatric diabetes?

Symptoms of types 1 and 2 diabetes are similar and can include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Blurred vision

  • Frequent urination

  • Fruity breath

  • Increased hunger

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Poor wound healing

  • Tiredness and weakness

  • Unexplained weight loss

What is the treatment for types 1 and 2 diabetes?

While the exact treatment plan will vary depending on if your child has type 1 or type 2 diabetes and what other medical conditions your child has, in both cases, the following will be important parts of their treatment plan:

  • Prescribed insulin

  • Healthy, balanced diet

  • Blood sugar monitoring

  • Physical activity

What type of pediatric specialist treats diabetes?

If your child is diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, a pediatric endocrinologist will partner with you and your child’s pediatrician to develop a care plan. Your child’s care team will also include a registered dietitian who specializes in pediatric nutrition.

You will play a critical role in your child’s treatment. Your child’s medical care team will help you and your child:

  • Understand their type of diabetes

  • Learn how to check blood sugar levels and understand the symptoms of low and high blood sugar levels

  • Manage your child’s diet, especially carbohydrate counting

  • Calculate and give an insulin dose

  • Understand what needs to be done differently if your child is ill

  • Create a kit for your child that includes:

    • Blood sugar monitor, test strips, lancets
    • Fast-acting sugar to treat lows
    • Glucagon to increase blood sugar levels, if needed
    • Insulin
    • Ketostix® for urinalysis
    • Protein or carbohydrate snacks, such as cheese and crackers to stabilize blood sugar

DMG CRS includes pediatric endocrinologists specializing in diabetes. In addition, we have pediatricians, registered dietitians, a pharmacy and more on-site, so you can get complete support for your child and family all in one place. Our goal is to enable your child and your family to live an active lifestyle knowing how to support your child with a team of compassionate pediatric specialists supporting you.