Diabetes mellitus: how it develops in children

Disorders of metabolic processes negatively affect the growth and development of the child, diabetes is not an exception. It leads to impaired carbohydrate metabolism as a result of insufficient synthesis of insulin, which leads to a sharp increase in blood glucose (hyperglycemia). In childhood, diabetes can develop quite actively, which leads to pronounced weight loss against the background of even increased appetite. In this case, the child may experience intense thirst, because of which he consumes a lot of water, and excessive urination. Detection of diabetes at this age requires detailed laboratory diagnostics, which will help to take control of glucose levels in the future.  

Diabetes mellitus: how it develops in children

Doctors note the fact that there is an increase in the number of children diagnosed with diabetes mellitus or the presence of insulin resistance (a condition that also leads to a change in blood glucose). The statistics are such that the prevalence of diabetes in children is determined at the level of 1 child per 500 children, and in adolescents this figure can reach 1 in 300 people. In addition, an increase in the incidence rate of approximately 50-70% is projected in the next few decades. The problem is not only medical, but also social, since children  with this pathology require special care, nutrition and therapeutic measures. In addition, not only pediatricians and endocrinologists are involved in their treatment – since many organs and systems are involved in the process, the help of cardiologists, neurologists, oculists and doctors of other specialties may be required. Diabetes mellitus is dangerous not only by changes in glucose levels and serious disorders of carbohydrate metabolism, but also by complications from many organs. That is why it is important to identify it as early as possible and take it under strict control.

What types of diabetes can children have?

In the vast majority of cases in childhood, the first type of diabetes, insulin-dependent, is formed. That is, with it there is an acute shortage of insulin, which helps tissues absorb glucose. Such diabetes in children is formed as a result of the fact that the pancreas secretes extremely little insulin for the needs of the body. Usually the problem is formed as a result of an autoimmune lesion, when the child’s body produces antibodies against its own glandular tissues, this leads to the destruction of special cells that are involved in the production of insulin. This leads to the dependence of the child’s body on insulin, which is injected from the outside, in the form of injections, to bring metabolic processes into a relatively normal state.

Much less often, diabetes in children has other forms – the second type, independent of insulin levels, as well as diabetes, arising from various genetic abnormalities.

Reasons for the development of pathology

The main factor that provokes the development of diabetes is the unfavorable heredity of the child. This will be confirmed by the high frequency of pathology among members of the same family (close relatives – parents, brothers, grandmothers have diabetes). However, diabetes does not always develop even if there is a hereditary burden. In order for the start of the autoimmune process and the destruction of beta cells, negative environmental influences are also necessary. The most common provocateurs, after exposure to which in predisposed children diabetes can develop with a high degree of probability, are viral infections leading to reactive changes in the gland. Enterovirus and rotaviruses, herpes viruses, measles and rubella, cytomgalovirus and Coxsackie viruses and ECHO are considered the most dangerous in this regard.

In the presence of a hereditary predisposition, the pancreas in children becomes especially vulnerable and sensitive to external negative influences. Diabetes provocateurs can become toxic effects, unsustainable feeding (early transition to mixtures, intake of cow’s milk, monotonous nutrition with an excess of carbohydrates). Surgical interventions and stresses – physical and emotional – can significantly affect. There are children who are at high risk, they have diabetes most likely – at birth they are heavy, lead a sedentary lifestyle, often get sick or suffer from allergies and dermatoses.  

Diabetes mellitus as an additional pathology can be formed with damage to other endocrine glands – adrenal glands, thyroid gland or pituitary gland, as well as damage to the pancreas itself (pancreatitis). Often, diabetes is combined with various autoimmune pathologies – lupus, sclerodemia, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Signs of childhood diabetes

The first signs of pathology can form at any age, but there are two peak ages, when its manifestation is most likely – it is a period of 5-8 years and puberty. These are moments when there is increased growth and a sharp acceleration of metabolism. For the most part, the first signs of diabetes form after recent viral infections (childhood infections, intestinal or colds).

Signs of diabetes are formed quite quickly and acutely, often with the development of severe ketoacidosis (accumulation of metabolic products) and even the formation of coma. From the first symptoms to a severe, precomatous state, no more than 2-3 months can pass.

You can suspect something was wrong by the first signs of diabetes, such as an increase in the number and volume of urination, a strong thirst when children drink up to 3 or more liters of water per day. Also, against the background of existing disorders, children eat a lot and eat well, but body weight does not increase, but rather decreases.

In the very initial periods of diabetes, parents can notice severe dry skin, dry lips and mucous membranes of the children, peeling on the palms and feet, the formation of jamming in the corners of the mouth and stomatitis. Such symptoms as dry seborrhea in the scalp, frequent pustules on the skin, boils and fungal infection are frequent. If diabetes occurs during puberty, irregular menstruation can occur in girls. A severe and uncompensated course of diabetes leads to disorders in the functioning of the heart and blood vessels.

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