Diabetes in Children: What Symptoms Should You Look Out For?

kid with diabetes

Story at-a-glance -

  • While some people might think diabetes in children is impossible, it's believed that children have been suffering from Type 1 diabetes since time immemorial
  • Diabetes can strike at any age or at any time, but other people are more predisposed to this condition

While some people might think diabetes in children is impossible, it’s believed that children have been suffering from Type 1 diabetes since time immemorial. In fact, diabetes mellitus was first identified by ancient Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Persians and Egyptians, who noticed that the urine of of people with this disease tasted sweet. Hence the Latin word “mellitus” was added to the name1

It wasn’t until 1936, however, that Sir Harold Percival Himsworth noted two different types of diabetes, with Type 1 ascribed to the form of the disease most often manifesting in juveniles.2 While the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes is not known, it’s believed that it is typically due to a congenital abnormality in the pancreas, where they are unable to produce enough insulin.

It’s also believed that exposure to viruses and other environmental factors, along with autoimmune issues, also play a role.3

In addition to this complication, junk food and processed food have also taken a toll on the health of children, causing diabetes Type 2 rates in children to rise at a rapid pace in recent years. In fact, the percentage of both children and adolescents affected by Type 2 diabetes has rates gone from 3 percent to 45 percent in a short span of years. 4

Is Your Child at Risk for Diabetes?

Diabetes can strike at any age or at any time, but some people can be more predisposed to this condition than others. Some of the risk factors that parents should take into consideration include the following:5

  • Weight — Children who are overweight or obese are more susceptible to Type 2 diabetes. More fat around the abdomen means that your child might be getting insulin resistant.
  • Inactivity — Constant movement in children helps keep their weight at a healthy level and prevent excessive fat storage. It also helps in expending the glucose and facilitating the steady production of insulin. When they are too inactive, this check-and-balance system doesn’t work as well, and putting them at higher risk of becoming diabetic.
  • Diabetic family members — Children with diabetic parents or siblings have a higher chance of developing diabetes because of the possible genetic properties of this disease. Those who have mothers who suffered from gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of getting diabetes as well.
  • Birth weight — Children who had a low birth weight have been observed to have a higher risk for obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes in later life. These children were observed to have high leptin levels to help the body catch up during development.

Watch Out for These Diabetes Symptoms in Your Children

If your child has some of the possible risk factors for diabetes, here are symptoms that you should be looking out for:

  • Intense hunger — Because of the low insulin levels, your child’s body is unable to absorb the excessive glucose present in the blood and synthesize energy. This leads to more cravings and increased food intake.6 However, there are also instances when children lose their appetite.
  • Weight loss Due to the loss of energy, your child’s body may start burning fat or leaching sugar supplies from other organs.
  • Blurred vision — Too much glucose in your child’s blood may cause blood vessels in the eyes to become damaged. Liquid or blood may start leaking into the retina and cause cloudy or blurred vision. If this is not diagnosed or treated, there is a chance that it can lead to blindness.7
  • Yeast or fungal infections — If your child has been suffering from constant fungal or yeast infections, there is a chance that they are suffering from abnormally high glucose levels. Diabetes patients usually become targets of infections because the sugar content in the blood may start providing bacteria and fungi with the energy to proliferate.8
  • Lethargy — Because of the low levels of energy, your child may start acting extremely tired or even lethargic. This is probably one of the first symptoms of diabetes but, unfortunately, a lot of parents wave it off as laziness.9

Take note that Type 2 diabetes is harder to diagnose compared to Type 1 diabetes, and may remain undiagnosed for months or years. Undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases might lead to serious or even fatal complications.

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