What are the Types and Treatments of Juvenile Diabetes?

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If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes, it means his or her pancreas is either producing little or no insulin.

When working properly, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin to control blood sugar levels. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the body, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body in the urine. When this happens, the body loses its main source of fuel.

What are the Types of Juvenile Diabetes?

The two types of diabetes that can affect children are:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease results when the body’s system for fighting infection (the immune system), turns against a part of the body. In diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin.

A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Research is ongoing to determine the cause. It is thought that autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors possibly viruses are involved.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period, although beta cell destruction can begin years earlier. Symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Constant hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme fatigue

If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening diabetic coma, also known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. This form of diabetes is most often associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities. However, type 2 diabetes is increasing in children and adolescents.

Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop gradually. Their onset is not as sudden as in type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing of wounds or sores
  • Sometimes a person can have type 2 diabetes, though, without any symptoms.

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

The fasting blood glucose test is the preferred test for diagnosing diabetes in children and is most reliable when done in the morning. However, a diagnosis of diabetes can be made based on any of the following test results, confirmed by retesting on a different day:

  • A blood glucose level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more after an 8 hour fast. This test is called the fasting blood glucose test.
  • A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or more, 2 hours after drinking a beverage containing 75 grams of glucose dissolved in water. This test is called the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).
  • A random (taken at any time of day) blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or more, along with the presence of diabetes symptoms.

Diabetes Treatment

The immediate treatment is to control the high blood glucose levels. Your child might need to be hospitalized initially due to the sudden onset and severity of symptoms in type 1 diabetes.

Once your child’s blood glucose levels are under control, ongoing treatment is needed to reduce symptoms, and prevent future diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney failure, and amputation of limbs.

A specific treatment plan will be devised for your child, but both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are treated with insulin use, meal planning and weight control, exercise, foot care, and careful self-testing of blood glucose levels.

Usually insulin injections are needed one to four times a day. Since a child is not capable of giving themselves injections, parents or other adults like school nurses will need to give the injections. Most children can handle the responsibility of giving themselves their own injections by age 14.

Where Can I Get More Information?

National Diabetes Education Program
1 Diabetes Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560
Phone: 1-800-438-5383
Website: www.ndep.nih.gov

To find a clinical trial, check NIHs database at www.ClinicalTrials.gov online.

To participate in studies about type 1 diabetes, contact:

Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet
Phone: 1-800-425-8361
Website: www.DiabetesTrialNet.org

American Diabetes Association
National Service Center
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
Phone: 1-800-342-2383
Website: www.diabetes.org

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
120 Wall Street, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10005
Phone: 1-800-533-2873
Website: www.jdrf.org