Diabetes in Children and Adolescents
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases to affect children. It can strike children of any age, even toddlers and babies. If not detected early enough in a child, the disease can be fatal or result in serious brain damage. Yet diabetes in a child is often completely overlooked: it is often misdiagnosed as the flu or it is not diagnosed at all.
Every parent, school teacher, school nurse, doctor and anyone involved in the care of children should be familiar with the warning signs and alert to the diabetes threat.
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Know the diabetes warning signs
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss
- Lack of interest and concentration
- Blurred vision
- Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu)
*In children with type 2 diabetes these symptoms may be mild or absent.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic, potentially debilitating and often fatal disease. It occurs as a result of problems with the production and supply of the hormone insulin in the body. The body needs insulin to use the energy stored in food. When someone has diabetes they produce no or insufficient insulin (type 1 diabetes), or their body cannot use effectively the insulin they produce (type 2 diabetes).
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that cannot be prevented. Globally it is the most common form of diabetes in children, affecting around 500,000 children under 15. However, as a result of increasing childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles, type 2 diabetes is also increasing fast in children and adolescents. In some countries (e.g. Japan), type 2 diabetes has become the most common form of the disease in children.
- Globally, there are close to 500,000 children under the age of 15 with type 1 diabetes.
- Every day 200 children develop type 1 diabetes.
- Every year, 70,000 children under the age of 15 develop type 1 diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes is increasing in children at a rate of 3% each year
- Type 1 diabetes is increasing fastest in pre-school children, at rate of 5% per year.
- Finland, Sweden and Norway have the highest incidence rates for type 1 diabetes in children.
Type 2 diabetes has been reported in children as young as eight and reports reveal that it now exists in children thought previously not to be at risk.
In Native and Aboriginal communities in the United States, Canada and Australia at least one in 100 youth have diabetes. In some communities, it is one in every 25.
- Over half of children with diabetes develop complications within 15 years.
- Global studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by enabling individuals to lose 7-10% of their body weight, and by increasing their physical activity to a modest level.
- Type 2 diabetes in children is becoming a global public health issue with potentially serious outcomes.
- Type 2 diabetes affects children in both developed and developing countries.
No Child Should Die of Diabetes
Diabetes is a deadly disease. Each year, almost 4 million people die from diabetes- related causes. Children, particularly in countries where there is limited access to diabetes care and supplies, die young.
- Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), a build-up of excess acids in the body as a result of uncontrolled diabetes, is the major cause of death in children with type 1 diabetes. With early diagnosis and access to care, the development of severe DKA should be preventable.
- Insulin was discovered more than 85 years ago. Today children in many parts of the world still die because this essential drug is not available to them.
- Children with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar regularly to help control their diabetes. This monitoring equipment is often unavailable or not affordable.
- In Zambia, a child with type 1 diabetes can expect to live an average of 11 years. In Mali, the same child can expect to live for only 30 months. In Mozambique the child is likely to die within a year.
The World Diabetes Day campaign in 2008 aims to:
- Increase the number of children supported by the IDF Life for a Child Program.
- Raise awareness of the warning signs of diabetes
- Encourage initiatives to reduce diabetic ketoacidosis and distribute materials to support these initiatives.
- Promote healthy lifestyles to help prevent type 2 diabetes in children.