Greetings to all our enthusiastic K-WAY readers! Come November, and we see a flurry of diabetes awareness campaigns. After all, November is Diabetes Awareness Month!
We all know that diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition where your blood glucose or blood sugar is too high. It occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or when the body becomes resistant to insulin (Type 2 diabetes). Type 1 is known to commonly affect children with twin peaks of diagnosis at ages 5 to 6 and 11 to 13 years. Let us run a contextual fact-check about this particular form of diabetes.
What are the warning signs of diabetes in children?
Excessive urination (more so at night)
New-onset bedwetting in a child who has been previously dry at night
Loss of weight
Tiredness, fatigue and lethargy
What tests are done in Type 1 diabetes?
Blood sugar, HbA1C, urine sugar and ketones, basic biochemistry and hematology tests.
A pediatric endocrinologist will recommend a thyroid profile, lipid profile and a hormonal panel as warranted by the clinical scenario.
What is the treatment for Type 1 diabetes?
Sadly, there is neither a miracle pill nor a cure for Type 1 diabetes. It is certainly not a disease that children outgrow with time. The mainstay of therapy involves lifelong insulin injections, a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Children over 7 years of age can begin self-care tasks and take insulin injections under adult supervision. Managing the disease requires a steadfast focus on blood sugar monitoring several times a day at home using a simple blood glucometer. Good glycemic control lowers the risk of long-term health problems (heart disease, kidney disease and nerve damage).
Is Type 1 diabetes caused by eating too much sugar? Is it because of being overweight?
Type 1 diabetes is caused typically by a lack of insulin secondary to the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Complex genetic factors have been linked to its etiology. Sugar consumption, weight gain and diet have no bearing in this regard. In fact, kids with diabetes can still eat sweets! Remember to exercise restraint with sugary treats and the total amount of carbohydrates they eat. Provide a limited apportioned quantity since sweets lack nutritional value per se and are simply empty calories.
What kind of dietary regimen is ratified in such children?
Provide a healthy, balanced diet replete with the right amount of nutrients. Provide 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks every day. Keep track of the carbohydrate count. A dietary pattern involving whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and milk is endorsed for well-being. Diabetic “super-foods” with low glycemic index include beans, greens, citrus, berries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Avoid unhealthy trans fats. Stick to a consistent meal-time plan. It is imperative to have a meal plan that balances carbohydrate intake with insulin and exercise.
How can we assist and support such children?
Type 1 diabetes can be quite daunting and overwhelming to deal with. Family support and education is pivotal to help inculcate healthy habits for life in the child. Parents must have a sound understanding of diabetes. Reach out to the right resources of knowledge (doctors, health care professionals and childhood diabetes support groups). Help the child with their daily care-plan and constantly encourage the child to adjust to the ways of life that come with Type 1 diabetes. Don’t miss out on periodic follow-up visits and vaccinations with your doctor.
The effort we put in will help keep your child healthy and happy!
We are in this together!