Type 1 diabetes used to be known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes. In this type, the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. Without insulin, your child can’t convert sugar, starch and other food into energy.
This condition can occur at any age. Usually it is first diagnosed in children, teens or young adults.
The cause of type 1 diabetes isn’t known. Doctors think it is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the body sees the pancreas as an invader and attacks it. Sometimes an infection causes the body to attack the beta cells that make insulin by mistake.
Unlike type 2 diabetes, this type can’t be prevented. Most people who develop type 1 diabetes are of normal weight and are healthy before it starts. Exercise and diet are not helpful in reversing type 1 diabetes. Both, however, are important in treating it.
At Children’s Health℠, we work closely with both you and your primary care provider so that everyone involved has the information they need to create the best outcomes for your child.
Symptoms are the first things your child’s doctor will assess in making a diagnosis. There are also tests for type 1 diabetes that may be used to make a diagnosis:
One of the ways to tell if your child’s diabetes is type 1 or type 2 is for a doctor to test for autoantibodies to certain types of cells or hormones:
Not every child needs all these tests. Your physician will tell you exactly what the next steps are. Each year, the endocrinology specialists at Children’s Health see more than 12,000 pediatric patients for type 1 diabetes and other endocrine-related conditions. We have the skill and resources necessary to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for your child too.
The main treatment for type 1 diabetes is to replace the insulin your child’s body needs. This is usually done using one of three methods:
Insulin syringes are tubes with very fine needles. The outside is marked with lines that show how many units of insulin you are drawing up. There are various doses of insulin available, so make sure that the syringe being used goes with the kind of insulin that has been prescribed.
Insulin pens actually look like large pens. They use insulin cartridges and disposable needles. You use the dial on the side to find the dose. It is displayed in the pen’s window as a double check.
Insulin pumps are attached to a catheter. The catheter is put into the abdomen, usually around the waist. Some pumps can also measure the amount of glucose in the blood and automatically adjust the dose as needed.
An important part of the diabetes treatment and control process is keeping close track of your child’s blood glucose levels. Usually you or your child will prick a finger for a drop of blood. The blood is placed on a special test strip, which then goes into a meter. After a short time, the meter tells how much sugar is in the blood.
The doctor may ask you or your child to write down the time and results to help the healthcare team know how well your child is doing. Many meters will now record this automatically and some may even “phone home” directly to the doctor’s office. You, your child and your child’s doctor should set up a plan on what should be done if the blood sugar is too high or too low.
Regular exercise works to control the amount of sugar and helps burn extra calories and fat to help your child get to, and to maintain, a healthy weight. Since exercise can change blood sugar, talk to your child’s doctor before starting a program. Some changes may have to be made in the treatment plan before, during and after physical activity.
Diet is another important part of the care for type 1 diabetes, as different foods will have different impacts on blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association have information on planning healthy meals.
Children’s Medical Center uses a multidisciplinary approach to caring for your child. This allows us to offer our patients care from multiple specialists and experts, in a single appointment, at one location. If your child has symptoms of a type 1 diabetes, contact us. We provide the comprehensive and individualized care necessary to put your child back on the path to a healthy life.
Most of the symptoms seen before diagnosis are related to having too much sugar in the blood stream. These symptoms include
Symptoms, if untreated
If the diabetes continues undiagnosed and is not treated, other symptoms can occur later:
In type 1 diabetes the pancreas completely stops producing any insulin, the hormone needed to change the glucose (sugar) found in foods into energy.
Type 1 diabetes is different because the only treatment available is the use of insulin. Type 2 may be treated with insulin, but other medications and even diet alone can also be used.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown. The possible causes doctors and researchers are looking at include genetics and environmental factors such as viruses.
You can have type 1 diabetes at any point in your life if the pancreas stops producing insulin. Most people are diagnosed in childhood or when they are young adults.
People with type 1 diabetes can neveruse pills. Insulin therapy tries to mimic the way the pancreas would produce and distribute its own insulin, if it were able. The goal is to use insulin, close monitoring of blood sugar levels and diet to keep blood sugars as close to normal as possible.
Too much sugar in the blood disrupts the normal environment of your child’s body. If left untreated, it can lead to heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, removal of a body part because of blood vessel problems and nerve damage with pain.
Tight control helps decrease the chances that your child will experience complications from high glucose levels.
There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, most of the complications can be prevented with close control of your blood sugars.
The warning signs can be different from one person to the next. Warning signs of high or low blood sugar (hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, respectively) vary. Symptoms of low blood sugar can include feeling shaky, blurred speech, headache, sweating, tiredness, dizziness, hunger and changes in behavior. If untreated, they can lead to loss of consciousness and seizures.
Symptoms of high blood sugar include increased thirst, increased appetite, increased urine, tiredness and blurred vision. If left untreated, this can lead to ketoacidosis -- a life-threatening condition with symptoms that may include extreme thirst, rapid shallow breathing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and even a fruity odor to your child’s breath.
For more information on Type 1 diabetes, please visit these sites:
For information specifically relating to the disease and how you can help your child (includes audio and Spanish versions), go to KidsHealth
This page has more facts and information about Type 1 diabetes: JDRF
For tips on understanding how Type 1 diabetes affects your child, psychologically as well as physically, see JDRF
More ideas for parents and children about life, school and family communication are offered here: American Diabetes Association