Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which blood sugar levels are too high. Insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy, regulates blood sugar. Problems with either the amount of insulin made or the response to insulin can lead to abnormal blood sugars.
About 20.8 million children and adults, approximately 7 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes. But less than 10 percent of Americans have type 1. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body loses its ability to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually develops during childhood or adolescence but can occur in adulthood as well. Currently, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, so patients with type 1 must get insulin from an external source for the duration of their lives.
Most Americans diagnosed with diabetes have type 2. Type 2 diabetes used to be considered "adult onset" diabetes, but children and adolescents are now frequently diagnosed as well. People with type 2 diabetes in their families are at greater risk of developing diabetes themselves. Other risk factors for development of type 2 diabetes include being overweight, physical inactivity or belonging to certain ethnic groups, including African-American, Latino, Native American and Asian.
Prediabetes is a condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. More than 54 million Americans have prediabetes. This staggering number is in addition to the 20.8 million people who have been already been diagnosed.
Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem harmless. Recent studies indicate that the early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the chance of developing diabetes-related complications, such as eyes, heart, kidney and nerve damage. Should your child exhibit any of these symptoms, see your physician immediately:
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Frequent urination
- Increased fatigue
- Unusual weight loss
- Vision changes
Your child's diabetes team includes your child, your family, a board-certified physician, a certified diabetes educator, a registered dietician, a mental health professional, an eye doctor, a pharmacist and possibly, an exercise specialist. Don't be afraid to ask these qualified individuals questions about your child's diabetes care to help ensure you're on the road to successful diabetes management.