Weight and Diabetes in Kids

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is not related to being overweight and can not be prevented. Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person's immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells that create insulin. Children and teens with type 1 diabetes depend on daily injections of insulin or an insulin pump to control their blood glucose level. This form of diabetes usually comes on suddenly. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include the following:

  • Frequent urination - Children with diabetes need to urinate more frequently, due to the kidneys responding to and flushing out the high levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
  • Excessive thirst - Because of frequent urination, a child loses a large amount of body fluid, which results in thirst and which can lead to dehydration. Children with diabetes drink more fluids in an attempt to stay hydrated.
  • Extreme hunger accompanied by loss of weight - Kids and teens who develop type 1 diabetes may have an increased appetite, but often lose weight because their bodies can't use glucose properly, and flush it out of the body in urine.
  • Nausea and vomiting - When the symptoms of diabetes aren't properly recognized and treated, chemicals called ketones can build up in the blood and cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, fruity-smelling breath, and loss of consciousness.
  • Weakness and fatigue - Children with diabetes may become fatigued more easily, because their bodies do not use the glucose properly to supply energy.

Other symptoms may include bedwetting in children who were typically dry at night, or vaginal yeast infections in prepubescent girls.

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can produce insulin, but the body can't use it properly to move the glucose into the cells (this is called insulin resistance). Overweight or obese children are more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, because excess body fat, especially around the waist, increases insulin resistance. Developing type 2 diabetes may be delayed or prevented with a healthy and physically active lifestyle.

Children are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they have one or more family members with the disease, or if they belong to certain ethnic and racial groups - including Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders. This form of diabetes usually develops slowly. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Tingling or numbness in feet and hands
  • Recurring or hard-to-heal skin, gum, urinary infections, or bladder infections
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Itching
  • Any type 1, insulin-dependent symptoms
Long-Term Complications of Diabetes
Thinking about the long-term complications from diabetes can be scary for parents and kids. Even though your diabetic child or teen may not display any symptoms now, complications may develop over time in adulthood. If a diabetic's blood sugar isn't monitored and cared for properly, the body can suffer negative effects in the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels, gums, and feet. To help avoid these complications, people with diabetes should be diligent about following doctor's instructions for routine care, including regular eye exams, annual tests for kidney disease, regular monitoring of cholesterol and blood pressure, regular exercise, routine dental care, and proper foot care.


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