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What Is Diabetes Mellitus Type 1?

Diabetes mellitus type 1 (or just diabetes) is a lifelong disorder that prevents your child’s body from getting energy from food. Most cases start in children 12 to 15 years old.

In type I diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone produced by special beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is vital because it controls the amount of sugar (glucose) absorbed by body cells from the blood. The body needs sugar for energy. People with diabetes have too much sugar in the blood, and not enough glucose gets into body cells.

What Causes Diabetes?

Not enough insulin is the cause. In most diabetic people, the body’s own defense, the immune system, destroys beta cells in the pancreas, but the reason for this isn’t known.

Other causes are some diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, and surgical removal or severe inflammation (swelling, irritation) of the pancreas.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

Diabetes warning signs include urinating frequently, feeling very thirsty and hungry, getting infections, losing weight quickly, and feeling tired and weak. Symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes also include blurred vision or blindness, slow-healing skin sores, numbness in hands or feet, and kidney failure (needing dialysis).

In diabetic ketoacidosis, another complication of diabetes, substances (ketones) form when fats break down faster than kidneys can remove them. Ketones in blood make the blood dangerously acidic, which affects organs including the brain.

How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?

For diagnosis, the health care provider uses a medical history, physical examination, and different measures of blood sugar (fasting level, average levels during 2 to 3 months [hemoglobin Aıc test], glucose tolerance test).

The health care provider may test the kidney function (serum creatinine level test), and check the urine (urine microalbumin level).

How Is Diabetes Treated?

A special diet will help control blood sugar. A nutritionist can help manage this diet. A glucometer can be used to check blood sugar levels.

The health care provider will explain how to give insulin injections at home. Children 7 to 10 years old can often check their own blood sugar levels. Children can also learn how to watch for signs of low blood sugar. Children 10 to 12 years old can often give themselves insulin.

The health care provider will suggest exercises, because exercise affects blood sugar levels.

Regular foot care and eye checkups are needed to prevent complications.

Having your child under the care of a diabetes specialist (endocrinologist) in addition to the primary care health care provider can also help prevent complications from diabetes.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Diabetes Mellitus:

  • DO prepare the special diet and have your child eat snacks at the same time every day, as instructed by your health care provider.
  • DO make sure that your child gets enough exercise and sleep.
  • DO check your sick child’s blood sugar level. Call your health care provider if your child has fever, nausea, or vomiting and can’t keep down solids or liquids.
  • DO call your health care provider right away if your child’s blood sugar level is too high.
  • DO take your child to the hospital right away if he or she has a seizure, can’t wake up, or loses consciousness.
  • DO follow your doctor’s orders about insulin exactly.
  • DO give your child a sugar snack or glass of orange juice if the sugar level is too low and call the health care provider to adjust future insulin doses.
  • DON’T let your child eat too much sugar.
  • DON’T give your child too much insulin.
  • DON’T let your child become dehydrated.
  • DON’T serve foods that are not suggested by your health care provider.

Contact the following sources:

  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
    Tel: (800) 860-8747
  • American Diabetes Association (ADA)
    Tel: (800) DIABETES (342-2383)

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor