Medically reviewed by
Dr. Deidre Tyson
McLeod Pediatric Endocrinology
The diagnosis of diabetes can be devasting for a child and their family. Yet, today’s technology and treatments can help give the child a happy, healthy life, free of long-term complications.
“In the U.S. each year, more than 18,000 children and teens are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease,” says McLeod Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr. Deidre Tyson. “But now, Type 2 diabetes is gaining ground in youth, largely driven by bad eating habits, electronic games, lack of exercise and obesity.”
TYPE 1 DIABETES
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Most individuals with Type 1 diabetes do not have a family history of Type 1 diabetes. This has nothing to do with diet, such as eating in excess or eating too much candy. That’s Type 2.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way a child’s body metabolizes sugar. The condition develops when the child’s body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. Each year, more than 5,000 children and teens are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the United States.
The main risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes in this modern era is the lack of physical activity. Other risk factors include being overweight and a family history of Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, most commonly associated with adults, is now on the rise among children and teens, due largely to the prevalence of obesity within this age group and the increased use of electronics.
MANAGING PEDIATRIC DIABETES
Children and teens diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin. Children with Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with diet, exercise, oral medications and, eventually, insulin if weight is not decreased and lifestyle changes are not implemented.
Management of all forms of diabetes includes a healthy eating plan rich in low-fat, high-fiber foods as well as physical activity, which often lowers blood sugar. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and adolescents with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity daily and limit nonacademic-related time in front of televisions, computers and handheld devices to less than two hours a day.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
If you think your child has diabetes, see your family physician, who can refer you to a specialist.