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Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2010 Issues

Does My Child Have Diabetes?


HT-March2010 Sodas and DiabetesA diagnosis of diabetes can be frightening and overwhelming to a child and his or her parents. But armed with proper information and treatment plans, children and parents will learn how to manage diabetes and allow the child to live a normal life.

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action or both. Because insulin is needed by the body to convert glucose into energy, these failures result in abnormally high levels of glucose accumulating in the blood and may cause organ damage. “Most new diabetes cases in children are Type 1 diabetes, but an increasing prevalence of childhood obesity has been occurring, which leads to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes,” states Anna Haddal, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body does not produce insulin and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas that help regulate blood glucose levels. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults between the ages of 6 and 15 years and cannot be prevented. Since the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, people with type 1 diabetes are required to take insulin daily, either by injection or via an insulin pump.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when insulin that the body produces is less efficient at moving sugar out of the bloodstream. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, requiring increasing amounts of insulin to be produced by the pancreas to control blood glucose levels and usually occurs in adults who are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is treated with oral medication and sometimes with an additional dose of insulin. With a healthy diet, weight management and regular physical activity, type 2 diabetes can be prevented.

HT-March2010 DiabetesDiagnosis “Diabetes is suspected when children present symptoms of increased thirst, urination and weight loss,” explains Dr. Haddal. “A blood and/or urine test is performed to test their glucose level and to detect antibodies to beta islet cells that can distinguish Type 1 from Type 2 diabetes.”

Helping Your Child Cope with Diabetes

“Parents should encourage independence in treatment, but at the same time must make sure their child is being responsible,” advises Dr. Haddal. By creating a personal diabetes management plan and daily schedule, and following a health meal plan, maintaining regular physical activity, checking blood glucose levels and taking insulin or oral medication as prescribed, every child will be able to manage his or her diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms may include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Abdominal pain  

Type 2 diabetes symptoms may include:

  • Subtle symptoms of Type 1 diabetes
  • Itchiness
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Sore that heals slowly
  • Recurring bladder infections

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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