Warning Signs of Type 1 Diabetes in Children
Type 1 diabetes is also known as Juvenile Diabetes. It affects children and adolescents more often but can develop in adults even in rare circumstances. Diabetes is a condition when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t produce it to metabolize sugar in the blood. It is insulin that delivers the glucose molecules to the cells for the release of energy.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
There are two types of diabetes- Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin at all. In Type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin or creates it in insufficient quantities. The exact reason why Type 1 diabetes occurs is still a topic of debate. Research has proved that genetic expression, inflammation levels and in some cases, even viral infections have a considerable role to play in this type of diabetes.
It is believed that the body’s immune system turns against itself and destroys islets of Langerhans, the pancreatic cells which produce insulin. When there is no insulin in the blood, the level of glucose increases leading to severe complications if left untreated. Since most of the patients who have Type 1 diabetes are children, they might not understand the signs of the disease. As parents or guardians, it is crucial to arms oneself with knowledge. In Type 1 diabetes, the symptoms appear quickly, and the onset of the disease is sudden.
Warning Signs of Type 1 Diabetes in Children
- Increased Urination
One of the prominent warning signs of Type 1 diabetes is increased urination. High sugar levels lead to a toxic environment in the blood. The body tries to bring back balance by eliminating the excess sugar. The kidneys produce excessive urine, and this makes one take frequent trips to the washroom.
- Excessive Thirst
The body can get dehydrated due to frequent urination. To replenish the fluids, it demands more water by making the child feel thirsty. If your child is demanding water too frequently, talk to his doctor. It could be a warning sign of Type 1 diabetes.
- Extreme Hunger
The body converts the food we eat into glucose, the smallest currency of energy. When one suffers from Type 1 diabetes, the glucose cannot be used by the body as there is a lack of insulin- the hormone responsible for delivering glucose molecules to the cells. This makes one feel low in energy. So the body demands more food to stave off the hunger. It is a vicious cycle. If your child has an increased appetite, observe if he is showing other warning signs of Type 1 diabetes.
- Mood Changes and Irritability
The continually fluctuating blood sugar levels create havoc on the mood of a person. Children are no different. When the sugar levels are low, we feel morose and irritable. When they are high, we feel full of energy and are in a better mood. When the levels dip too low or go too high, it could make one feeling depressed or manic. Frequent and unexplained mood swings in kids could be a warning sign of Type 1 diabetes.
- Blurred Vision
The eye provides us with sight due to the lens which bends and stretches to help form images which are then sent as signals to the brain. Fluids nourish this lens in the eye. High sugar levels affect the flexibility of the appears. This leads to blurry vision. When the blood sugar levels come under control and the diabetes is managed, the vision returns to normal. Vision changes are an early warning sign of Type 1 diabetes.
- Excessive Fatigue
In Type 1 diabetes, there may be a high amount of sugar in the blood but since it cannot be used by the cells. This makes the person feel weak and tired. Excessive and unexplained fatigue and weakness is a visible warning sign of Type 1 diabetes.
- Unexplained Weight Loss
While the body may demand more food and feel more hungry than usual, since the primary energy-providing mechanism is not working correctly, the patient may experience unexplained weight loss. The high sugar levels are not helping the cells which are deprived of energy leading to a decline in body mass due to loss of fat and muscle in the body.
- Bed Wetting
This is commonly observed in children who haven’t been wetting the bed earlier. High sugar levels lead to frequent urination. Children cannot control their urge in the sleep leading to bed wetting, another warning sign of Type 1 diabetes.
- Fruity-Smelling Breath
When the body uses fat to produce energy, it leads to the formation of ketones. Ketones provide a fruity-smelling scent to the breath. If left unchecked, high levels of ketones in the body lead to ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition.
This is another warning sign of Type 1 diabetes. High sugar levels are dangerous for the health of genital organs as they lead to an unhindered proliferation of vaginal yeast, bacteria, and fungi. This subjects the girl child to many vaginal and urinary tract infections. Controlling the blood sugar is the best way to reduce the frequency of the infections.
- Nausea and Vomiting
This is a warning sign of Type 1 diabetes exclusive to this type. When the body burns fats and muscles instead of carbohydrates to release energy, it releases ketones- the waste materials of the process. In small amounts, they don’t cause much damage, but in high quantities, they can cause toxicity in the blood leading to nausea and vomiting.
The diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes can lead make you feel overwhelmed as a parent. The responsibility of administering injections, monitoring sugar levels and taking care of the diet apart from worrying about the child will add to your woes. Remember sugar control is important to avoid complications, some of which can be fatal. With consistent care and appropriate medication, the situation can be brought under control.