What You Need to Know About Juvenile Diabetes

juvenile diabetes patient

Story at-a-glance -

  • Juvenile diabetes is a term used to refer to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, since a large percentage of people who are diagnosed with this condition are children, teenagers and young adults
  • Fortunately, this autoimmune disorder can be controlled, as long as it is diagnosed early and treatment is started immediately

Juvenile diabetes is a term used to refer to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, since a large percentage of people who are diagnosed with this condition are children, teenagers and young adults. Today, this condition is simply referred to as Type 1 diabetes, as researchers have acknowledged that it may occur at any age.1

Despite being uncommon, Type 1 diabetes is still considered one of the most debilitating diseases for children. Fortunately, this autoimmune disorder can be controlled, as long as it is diagnosed early and treatment is started immediately.

Juvenile Diabetes Statistics: How Prevalent Is This Disease?

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, around 200,000 individuals younger than 20 years old are suffering from Type 1 diabetes.2

The growing prevalence of this condition among youth is also confirmed by the statistics report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that around 17,900 children and adolescents were newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes between 2011 and 2012.3

A rapid increase in juvenile diabetes cases have also been reported in other parts of the world. 24.5 out of 100,000 children aged 0 to 14 years old are reportedly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year in the United Kingdom,4 and new cases of juvenile diabetes in Scotland have tripled over the last three decades.5

Studies have shown that 10 to 13 percent of newly diagnosed children have a close relative who is also suffering from Type 1 diabetes. The warning signs of this condition may also occur very early in life, with some of the diagnosed children showing symptoms as early as 2 years old.6

The Clinical Presentation of Type 1 Diabetes May Be More Acute in Children

The onset of Type 1 diabetes symptoms may occur at any age, but they commonly happen between the ages of 5 to 7, or during puberty. These symptoms usually develop more rapidly in children than adults over a few weeks, which is why it may be hard to diagnose and treat it during its early stages.7

Many cases of juvenile diabetes are only diagnosed once the child becomes seriously ill. In the United Kingdom, only 9 percent of parents were able to spot the common symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in their children, which include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Extreme thirst
  • Increased urination

Due to delayed diagnosis, many children who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes also have diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication wherein the body releases toxic amounts of ketones. DKA is one of the leading causes of death in children with juvenile diabetes.8

What Should You Do if Your Child Is Diagnosed With Juvenile Diabetes?

The rising prevalence of juvenile diabetes means that more children are entering adulthood with this disease — this increases their possibility of encountering complications that could shorten their lifespan. The good news is that there are ways to control this disease and prevent it from significantly affecting a child's life.9,10

If you suspect that your child has Type 1 diabetes, it's important to consult a specialist as soon as you can for a proper diagnosis. Once you've confirmed that your child is indeed suffering from juvenile diabetes, then you should seek the help of a healthcare expert to know the proper methods in managing this condition.

A healthcare expert can help you plan your child's diet, activities and medications accordingly. Your child may also experience emotional distress the following months after the diagnosis, so it's important for friends and families to give their full support. Talking with a psychologist may also help your child cope with this condition more easily.11

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