For parents who have a child with a confirmed diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, this is not just a disease. Endocrinologists say that this pathology is a special way of life, which involves constant monitoring of blood sugar levels, a specific approach to daily nutrition, selection of the necessary doses of insulin and control of physical activity. This will allow children to fully grow and develop, to study normally in school and not to experience special restrictions compared to their peers. But the course of diabetes in childhood has certain differences, which are important for parents to know.
Diabetes mellitus: endocrine pathology
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an endocrine pathology associated with a malfunction of the endocrine pancreas. For today diabetes refers to the category of chronic, progressive diseases, if we talk specifically about its 1st type, with it the child’s body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone necessary for the conversion of carbohydrates into energy for the cells of the body.
The cause of the defeat of the pancreas, by virtue of which the beta cells that synthesize insulin suffer, is the body’s own immune system. Due to certain influences (viral infection, unfavorable heredity), immune cells mistakenly attack and destroy the islets of beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.
In addition to type 1 diabetes, children also have a second type – called insulin-independent or insulin-resistant. Type 2 diabetes mellitus, which has historically been an adult disease, increasingly appears in children, which is associated with an increase in their obesity and metabolic disorders associated with poor nutrition.
Features of pathology in children
Usually, the diagnosis becomes a shock for the parents, the symptoms in children can occur quickly, but at the initial stage, asthenia, colds or kidney problems can be suspected. Children may complain of headaches and fatigue, constant drowsiness and weakness, and the appetite may be increased or normal. Next is thirst, children drink up to 3-4 liters of fluid per day, and, accordingly, urinate a lot, and urine has a light color. These manifestations force parents to consult a doctor to confirm their concerns about the diagnosis.
It is strong thirst, when children are constantly asked to drink and cannot get drunk in any way, it makes parents worry, look for possible diagnoses on the Internet, the first of which will be diabetes. Even with the existing symptoms, such a diagnosis can be a complete surprise, especially if the parents do not have a family history of the disease, which is influenced by genetics.
Difficulty controlling blood sugar
Making a similar diagnosis in children requires a lot of patience from parents. It is necessary to change the diet, especially with regard to the consumption of light carbohydrates, to monitor the constant injections of insulin, to maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range, as well as to monitor physical activity. This allows you to control the course of diabetes. But the course of diabetes in children, whose body is continuously growing, is very individual. Blood sugar levels can fluctuate greatly throughout the day, which creates certain difficulties in treatment.
The level of sugar in the blood depends not only on the level of insulin injected, but also on what the child ate a few minutes before the measurement. In addition, it varies significantly depending on the load or growth of the body. In childhood, it is not uncommon for the control of blood sugar to be used to continuously determine the concentration of glucose by a device that automatically checks the level of indicators during the day.
Does everyone need insulin treatment?
If we are talking about the first type of diabetes, shown injections of insulin using special syringes, syringe pens or insulin pump. This is due to the fact that the own body cannot produce it in a natural way. Correction of insulin doses is carried out by the doctor every three months, in parallel with the analysis and correction of nutrition.
Type 1 diabetes is 75-80% of pediatric diabetes cases. However, the course of the disease changes over time. Doctors detect type 1 diabetes at a younger age, while type 2 diabetes is traditionally regarded as a disease of adults. But in recent years, it has become increasingly common not only among teenagers, but also among younger children. It does not always show insulin injections, nutrition and hypoglycemic drugs play an important role in the treatment.
The role of nutrition in diabetes
Type 2 diabetes in children is associated with an increase in childhood obesity and a lack of exercise. Often too high-calorie, fatty diet in combination with low mobility form metabolic disorders that make cells “deaf” to insulin. With type 2 diabetes, unlike the first, the pancreas produces insulin, but not enough, or the body’s cells ignore the insulin it produces.
Modern adolescents who do not control their diet and are prone to being overweight are at great risk of getting the disease. As in the case of the first type, the therapy commonly used for type 2 diabetes is a healthy diet, regular exercise and, if necessary, insulin injections. Diabetes cannot be completely cured, but lifestyle changes and nutritional changes can normalize metabolism, then you will not need to use insulin injections or take medication.
Why is diabetes changing?
The changing nature of type 1 diabetes in children has several explanations. Some researchers blame environmental factors. Others say that an excessively sterile environment from early childhood around the baby, lead to the fact that the immune system attacks the body itself. Other theories point to an increase in the number of pediatric vaccinations or the widespread use of cow’s milk and formula compared to breast milk. The last two theories have practically no evidence, but have not yet completely rejected them.
Managing type 1 diabetes in childhood is a difficult task. In addition to monitoring everything that children eat and their level of physical activity, they should check their blood glucose levels and insulin several times a day throughout their lives.