According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 283,000 children and adolescents younger than age 20 years — or 35 per 10,000 U.S. youths — have been diagnosed with diabetes. This includes 244,000 with Type 1 Diabetes. Dr. Shideh Majidi, associate director of the Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children’s National Hospital, provides valuable insights into T1D and offers guidance on how caregivers can support and take care of children with this condition.
What is Type 1 diabetes and how is it different from Type 2?
T1D is a chronic autoimmune disease that prevents the pancreas from making insulin. It requires daily management with insulin injections and blood sugar monitoring. In contrast, Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin and/or the body doesn’t use insulin properly, often due to insulin resistance.
What are the symptoms parents should look for?
Parents should be aware of the following symptoms, which can be indicative of T1D:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive hunger
- Unusual bed-wetting
- Unusual weight loss
- Blurry vision
It’s important to note that T1D symptoms can appear suddenly and may vary from child to child. While primarily diagnosed in childhood, T1D can develop at any age.
How can diabetes be treated?
There is currently no cure for T1D, but it can be managed effectively. Children with T1D require daily insulin injections to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Insulin can be administered through injections or insulin pumps, and health care providers can provide training and support for caregivers. A diabetes treatment team, including a pediatrician, a certified diabetes care and education specialist, and a registered dietitian, can help ensure your child’s blood sugar levels remain healthy. You can be tested through bloodwork ordered by a physician to see if you are currently at risk of developing T1D.
How can I support my children to feel empowered in their care and treatment?
T1D is a lifelong condition, and it’s important to involve your children in their healthcare journey. Encourage open discussions with health care providers, allowing children to ask questions, express concerns, and actively participate in decisions regarding their treatment. This involvement fosters a sense of autonomy and self-advocacy, empowering children to take an active role in managing their condition.
Language is important when discussing diabetes. There is no “good” or “bad” blood sugars. Use of these terms can make your children feel like they are doing a bad job if their blood sugars aren’t in a certain range. Using terms like “low blood sugar” or “high blood sugar” will help to not attach negative emotions to blood sugars.
By following these guidelines and working closely with health care professionals, you can provide the necessary support and care for your child living with T1D, helping them lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
Feature image by Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
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