It’s difficult enough to deal with diabetes as an adult, but this disease isn’t just for older folks. If you’ve ever wondered “Do children get diabetes?”, the answer is yes. While it’s rare to develop diabetes as a child, it still happens — and if it does, you want to be prepared. Here are five things you should know about diabetes in young children.
What is diabetes in children?
Diabetes is a condition in which your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use insulin properly. This can lead to dangerously high blood glucose levels and debilitating complications such as foot problems or diabetic neuropathy. It is a chronic condition that often requires lifelong treatment.
5 things to know about childhood diabetes
1. Children can develop both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes — also known as juvenile diabetes — occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes — once it develops, it will remain with a child for life. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body can no longer use the insulin it makes. Because it develops in part due to certain lifestyle choices, this type of diabetes is often preventable.
What type of diabetes is most common in children? Type 1 diabetes is most likely to occur in young children, though cases of type 2 diabetes are on the rise.
2. Diabetes has many causes.
What causes diabetes in children? The answer depends on the type of diabetes.
While we don’t know what exactly causes type 1 diabetes, it’s thought to be the result of genetic factors or an external trigger, such as a virus.
Type 2 diabetes has a wider range of risk factors, including:
- An unhealthy diet
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Obesity or being overweight
- Being born to a mom with gestational diabetes
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Being a minority
3. Building healthy lifestyle habits should start now.
The best way to help prevent or manage childhood diabetes is to teach your children to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Hopefully, you do this by example! You can do a lot for your child by:
- Limiting fast foods, sugary beverages, and unhealthy treats
- Establishing healthy habits and eating together
- Staying physically active and exercising often
- Limiting screen time and other sedentary activities
These choices will benefit not only your child but you as well! Working together to achieve a healthier lifestyle is a great way to come together as a family.
4. Diabetic symptoms develop quickly.
Children can develop diabetes in as little as a few weeks. However, it can be difficult to identify symptoms, especially in young children. If you are worried that your child may be diabetic, look for signs such as:
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Increased urination
- Listlessness, fatigue, and weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Eye or vision problems
- Fruity-smelling breath
- Darkened skin around the neck or armpits
Take your child to a doctor immediately if you notice them exhibiting any combination of these symptoms. The sooner you catch and begin treating diabetes, the better it will be for your child.
5. Adapting to diabetes can be challenging for you and your child.
Why do children get diabetes? It certainly isn’t fair or common — but it happens. If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, you will likely experience a challenging transition as you adapt to the at-home testing, monitoring, and management that diabetes requires.
Remember that your child needs your help learning how to manage their condition so that they can enjoy a high quality of life. Work together as a team and be patient with one another. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if things ever feel out of your control.
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