Why Catching Diabetes Early in Children is Crucial?

Woman and her diabetic daughter with lancet pen and digital glucometer taking blood sample at home

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body has difficulty processing glucose, causing excessive sugar levels to rise. It is currently one of the most common chronic diseases in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 210,000 children and teenagers younger than 20 in the U.S. have pediatric diabetes.

Diabetes in children increases the likelihood of health problems later in life, emphasizing the urgency and importance of detecting and treating diabetes at an early age. Uncontrolled diabetes causes high blood sugar, whose long-term effects may cause “microvascular” issues such as kidney disease, eye disease, and poor limb circulation, as well as “macrovascular” issues such as heart disease and stroke. 

Managing high blood sugar early on produces “legacy effects” that are expected to change how the disease manifests itself in the long term, ideally for the better. However, a study found that people are discouraged from taking their medications because the results are not immediate, with some taking up to ten years. Early detection could therefore contribute to the development of healthy habits earlier on, particularly in children where it is easier and more effective to do so.

Diabetes Types

Unfortunately, as diabetes is a chronic illness, once your child is diagnosed, he or she will have it for life.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, often known as juvenile diabetes, is defined by insufficient insulin synthesis in the pancreas. Insulin deficiency prevents sugar from entering cells in the body, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Compared to type 2 diabetes, it affects young people much more frequently. Nevertheless, the incidence of both types among the youth is rising. 18,291 children were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2014-2015, while 5,758 with type 2.

Type 1 diabetes can strike at any time, but the average age of diagnosis is 13. Treatment consists of maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, and insulin administration for the rest of the patient’s life.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is primarily caused by insulin resistance. It impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin and elevates blood glucose levels. Although the onset is delayed in children and often rises with age, it is still possible for them to develop the condition.

75% of children with type 2 diabetes inherited from a family member or acquired it by adopting that person’s way of life. One of the major risk factors for type 2 diabetes is obesity, therefore, changing a child’s or family’s diet, upping activity levels, and keeping their weight under control are all effective management approaches. Some children might require medication.

Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetic symptoms may be similar across all ages, from children to adulthood. The onset of symptoms for type 1 diabetes in children can occur within a couple of weeks, whereas the onset of symptoms for type 2 diabetes occurs more slowly, sometimes for months, if not years.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

The following are the primary signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children and teens:

  • Excessive urination
  • Extreme thirst
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Irritation
  • Blurry eyesight
  • Having a fruity breath

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

The following are some of the primary signs of type 2 diabetes:

  • Urinating too often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Yeast infection
  • Cuts or wounds take a while to heal
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes

Research shows that only 14% of parents were aware of the four primary symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children. Unfortunately, many children do not get a proper diagnosis for pediatric diabetes until their symptoms have progressed significantly. If you suspect your child has diabetes, take them to a pediatrician at Newport Children to check them out immediately. Don’t wait until it’s too late.