Diabetes mellitus type 1, known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder that most often manifests in childhood.
As the name suggests, those with type-1 diabetes must be on insulin therapy indefinitely, and the disease requires careful monitoring of both diet and insulin intake. Managing type-1 diabetes in kids is an ongoing collaboration between the doctor, the parents and the child.
Type-1 diabetes is the result of an autoimmune disorder in which the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas are destroyed.
While the underlying cause of Type-1 diabetes is unknown, proposed theories include genetics, environmental factors and virus triggers, which induce a vigorous autoimmune response that attacks other cells in the body.
Other causes currently under investigation include the ingestion of water that has high levels of nitrates, the timing of transitioning a baby to cereal, and low dietary levels of vitamin D.
There are some very clear symptoms of Type-1 diabetes, including an increase in thirst, frequent urination, persistent dry mouth, fatigue, blurred vision, increased hunger and weight loss.
In children, symptoms may also include irritability, moodiness and other behavioral changes. Girls with Type-1 diabetes may develop a yeast infection, and babies can develop yeast-caused diaper rash.
Complications from Type-1 Diabetes
Long-term, there are a number of complications that can affect both function and quality of life for a child with Type-1 diabetes.
As adults, people who had Type-1 diabetes diagnosed in childhood have some of the same complications and risks that people with adult-onset Type-2 diabetes experience. These complications include a higher incidence of both stroke and heart disease, high cholesterol and triglycerides, which can cause cardiovascular problems, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic neuropathy.
Careful management of Type-1 diabetes through insulin therapy, diet and exercise will minimize these complications.
Insulin therapy and education are the cornerstones for managing Type-1 diabetes in kids. However, the ultimate goal is to have the child grow to be a healthy adult by taking responsibility for effective management of the disease.