Diabetes Warning Signs in Children

Every year, there are more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United States. That is 80 people every day.

However, type 1, originally known as juvenile-onset diabetes, or simply juvenile diabetes, is not the only form of diabetes children experience these days.

Increasingly, young children, including some who already have type 1 diabetes, are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. With the combination of today's high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar diets leading to children become overweight and sedentary lifestyles in front of computers and televisions, the number of young children suffering from this previously adults-only disease is climbing.

How Type 1 and Type 2 Compare

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are diseases of the metabolic system. In each, the failure to produce sufficient insulin results in cells in the body not accepting glucose. Because these cells need glucose for the energy needed to perform their individual functions, damage to different areas of the body results, including the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the kidneys, the liver and the eyes, among others.

Where these two types of diabetes differ is that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the body's immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, destroying them. Without pancreatic beta cells, the body has no ability to produce insulin.

In type 2, the beta cells may be damaged, and the cells in the body become desensitized to insulin. This means that the cells no longer accept insulin or glucose, and glucose levels build up in the blood.

The Symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2

It is important to recognize the symptoms of both types of diabetes so that treatment can begin right away. The biggest difference between the two types of diabetes is that type 1 diabetes tends to appear suddenly and dramatically, often over the period of only a few weeks, while the onset of type 2 diabetes tends to be more gradual.

A child with type 1 diabetes may experience an abrupt increase in thirst and hunger, which a parent might put off to a "growth spurt." Ultimately, as the disease takes hold, the child will rapidly begin to lose weight, despite this increased consumption. Fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, stomach aches and headaches are other symptoms to pay attention to. Young girls may also develop yeast infections.

Type 2 diabetes begins more gradually with increased thirst and blurred vision likely to be the first symptoms. Fatigue, weight loss, itchy skin, slow healing and heavy breathing can also be present.

Sources: Mayo Clinic and WebMD

Photo credit: Lisa Redfern

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