Diabetes costs the NHS £2 million an hour in the UK, with treating the condition making up 10% of its overall budget. Although four-and-a-half million people have diabetes, many of us know surprisingly little about the two types, why it is a big issue, how to spot childhood diabetes symptoms and more.
This guide to childhood diabetes will help you understand the importance of early diagnosis, the symptoms of Type 1 and the risk factors of Type 2. Keep reading to find out more.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when a person has too much glucose in their blood. The issue is related to insulin, which the pancreas creates. In someone with diabetes, it either doesn’t produce insulin or there isn’t enough. Sometimes there is insulin, but it can’t regulate blood sugar for some reason.
With Type 1 diabetes, no one really knows why the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, but it is possible it is the result of the immune system fighting a virus or infection. It also seems as though it could be genetic. Around 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1 and it is the most common childhood diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a risk if you are overweight or have a large waist. Other risk factors include having a close relative with the condition or being from an African-Caribbean, black African, Chinese or South Asian background. In these communities, you are at increased risk from the age of around 25, whereas people from other backgrounds see their risk escalate around the time they hit 40.
Why is it important to diagnose and treat diabetes?
Diagnosing diabetes means that people with the condition can manage it and live a long, healthy life. However, when undiagnosed and not treated, it can lead to strokes, amputations, heat failure, sight loss, heart attacks and the need for people to require dialysis.
An estimated 1 million people have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes and there are 12.3 million people in the UK at increased of risk of getting it.
How to spot childhood diabetes
The symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children are largely the same, but they develop quickly with Type 1, often within days or weeks. With Type 2, they tend to progress over time.
Here are the common childhood diabetes symptoms:
- Being more thirsty than usual and not being able to quench their thirst
- Frequent urination, sometimes resulting in bed wetting for previously dry children
- Extreme hunger and losing weight or looking thinner than usual
- Fatigue, not wanting to play or be involved in games and irritability or behaviour changes
Sometimes children with diabetes can have breath that smells almost like acetone, like you would find in nail polish remover. However the above are more common symptoms.
How to manage diabetes
Although it is a serious condition, it is possible to manage diabetes. If you think your child might have diabetes, take them to your doctor in the first instance and discuss your concerns. They will be able to help you find out whether it is diabetes or not.
For those with Type 1, they manage it by injecting insulin or using an insulin pump. For Type 2, some people can manage it through eating healthily and exercising more, losing weight if they need to. Others need insulin, and the longer a person has Type 2, the more likely they are to need to inject.