What is Diabetes?
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.
There are 20.8 million children and adults with diabetes in the United States. This is approximately 7 percent of the current population. Diabetes is classified into two major types.
Type 1 Diabetes
It is estimated that 5-10 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. This kind of diabetes happens when the body loses the ability to produce insulin. This kind of diabetes usually develops during childhood or adolescence but can occur in adulthood as well. Patients with type 1 diabetes have a lifelong requirement for insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes
Most Americans diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This used to be thought of as "adult onset" diabetes, but children and adolescents are now frequently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 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 Heritage.
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. There are 54 million Americans who have prediabetes. This staggering number is in addition to the 20.8 million people that have been already 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 the complications of diabetes. Some of the common warning signs include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Increased fatigue
- Unusual weight loss
- Vision changes
Should your child exhibit any of these symptoms, see your physician as soon as possible for an evaluation. Ignoring these symptoms and not properly managing diabetes can cause health long-term complications later such as nerve damage (neuropathy), damage to the eyes (retinopathy), kidney damage (nephropathy) and/or heart disease.
It can be difficult for children to understand why diabetes care is so important. Try to understand where your child is coming from, and allow him or her to vent, then focus on how good diabetes care today can prevent problems in the future. There is no cure for diabetes yet, but excellent control of blood sugar levels is possible.
The core of your child's diabetes team is your child and your family. Add to that a collection of knowledgeable and caring medical professionals, and you are well on your way to creating a diabetes team. Your teammates should include a qualified physician, certified diabetes educator, registered dietician, mental health professional, 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 ensure you're on the road to successful diabetes management.