Type 1 diabetes is the most common chronic health condition among children. An estimated 15,000 children are diagnosed with the disease each year in the U.S. alone. The cause of type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes is unknown but if managed correctly, children can lead normal productive lives.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease that affects how a child processes sugar. Normally the body produces insulin to break down and digest sugars. Those with diabetes do not produce insulin or not enough insulin leaving blood glucose levels too high for the body to function properly. If left unmanaged, prolonged elevated blood sugar levels can be harmful to organs and may lead to heart disease, kidney damage, vision impairment, skin conditions, nerve damage and low bone density.
Type 1 diabetes can occur during infancy, childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. The medical community does not know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, making it impossible to prevent. It is believed to be an auto-immune disorder where the immune system attacks cells that produce insulin for no reason. Those with genetic predisposition to diabetes are at greater risk but most babies diagnosed with juvenile diabetes do not have a family history of the disease. But here’s some good news for breastfeeding moms: breastfeeding is linked to lowered risk of type 1 diabetes.
Most parents are unaware that their babies have diabetes at birth as it cannot be determined in utero. However, parents should be vigilant of common symptoms of the disease including extreme thirst and hunger, increased urination, weight loss, fatigue, fussiness, vomiting or vision impairment. Parents should notify their pediatrician as soon as they noticed these symptoms. An official diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is determined through a blood test.
Babies with type 1 diabetes will have to be closely monitored all of their lives. Because their bodies do not produce insulin on their own, they will have to take insulin, either by injection or through an insulin pump. Their diet and exercise will have to be regulated to ensure blood glucose stability and prevention of further complications.
While there is no way of preventing babies from getting type 1 diabetes, knowing the symptoms and diagnosing the disease early will help ensure the baby is getting treatment before organ damage or other health problems occur. With modern medical and technological advances, living with type 1 diabetes is manageable. With vigilance, attentive care and love, families with babies with type 1 diabetes can persevere.