Diabetes in Children
Diabetes in children is always harder to accept, making growing up that bit more difficult. It also makes life harder for the parent and this article gives recommendations of what to look for if you suspect your child may be diabetic.
Children Suffering from Diabetes
Diabetics suffer from an illness called Diabetes mellitus. This is a condition where there is an abnormally high level of sugar glucose in their blood. It is caused by a deficiency of the hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. The pancreas is a small gland tucked behind the stomach. The carbohydrates found in starchy food such as bread and potatoes, are broken down tin the body to produce glucose. Glucose is the body's main source of energy and travels around in the body via the bloodstream to wherever it is needed. For the body to convert glucose into energy, it needs insulin. People with Diabetes make little or no insulin, so the glucose builds up in the blood reaching dangerously high levels. These high levels of glucose in the bloodstream may cause the person to go into a coma, unless treated medically.
Diabetes in children is becoming more common, for reasons not really understood. In certain children exposure to a virus - possibly a Coxsackie R virus - and/or other environmental factors may trigger off a sequence of events that could eventually lead to diabetes. Diabetes is not contagious. It can develop at any age, but statistics show there are two possible peak ages: early years of primary school or early years of secondary school. Most children affected have Type 1 diabetes (Diabetes mellitus - IDDM). Type 1 diabetes is where the pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all. These patients must inject themselves daily with insulin.
The symptoms of diabetes develop rapidly. The condition is usually diagnosed days after the symptoms appear.
• The child passes enormous amounts of urine.
If these symptoms are not picked up, more serious ones can appear:
• Tummy ache and vomiting
If you notice any of the above symptoms please take your child to your doctor immediately. Your doctor will check glucose levels in the child's urine and blood. If the levels are unusually high your child may be admitted to hospital. Treatment involved is twice - daily injections of insulin needed to bring the diabetes under control. You and your child will be taught how to administer the injections at home. Some children as young as five years, manage to inject themselves. Children usually take one injection before breakfast and the second injection before supper. A pen injector is more convenient to use than the syringe method. The child must rotate the injection site between arms, legs and abdomen to avoid the build up of fatty deposits.
It is also recommended that possibly another member of your family know how to administer injections, recognize signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and how to treat it with a fast-acting carbohydrate. The child should be given foods such as honey, soft sweets or glucose tablets. If blood sugar levels drop too quickly they should be given an injection of glucagons. Blood sugar levels need to be monitored four times per day. This is very easy to do at home on finger prick samples of blood. Urine tests give a rough estimate of glucose levels.
Children with diabetes do not need a special diet, although they should eat regular meals, with sufficient starchy carbohydrates and fibre, with little fat and sugar. Control of diabetes depends on a careful balance of food intake, exercise and insulin. This may be more challenging in the teenage years.
Your Independent guide to Diabetics
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Top: Type 1 Diabetes in Children