How to know if a child has diabetes?
Juvenile diabetes, more commonly known as insulin-dependent diabetes or type 1 diabetes, is a disease that occurs when the pancreas, which produces insulin, stops working. Insulin is an important hormone because it regulates the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood and helps transfer it to cells for energy in the body. When insulin production is lacking, glucose remains in the blood, which increases blood sugar levels. Technically, type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it usually shows up in people under the age of 30. It is the most common type of childhood diabetes   and symptoms appear very quickly. It is very important to be able to diagnose it as quickly as possible, as over time it gets worse and can lead to serious medical problems, such as kidney failure, coma, and even death .
Recognize early or present symptoms
Check if your child is thirsty
All signs of insulin-dependent diabetes are due to hyperglycemia (an abnormally high blood glucose level) and the body’s efforts to balance it. One of the most common symptoms of this disease is a noticeable increase in thirst (polydipsia). It develops because the body is trying to get rid of excess glucose from the blood vessels and not using it (due to the lack of insulin to transfer it to the cells). The child may be constantly thirsty or drink unusually large amounts of water, which is well above their normal daily fluid intake.
- According to recommendations, children should drink between 5 and 8 glasses of fluids per day. For children aged 5 to 8, the daily intake is less (around 5 glasses), while older children should drink more, around 8 glasses .
- However, these are general guidelines and only you can know how much water and fluids your child is consuming each day. Therefore, an actual increase in fluid intake is relative depending on the child’s habits. If he usually drinks about 3 glasses of water and a glass of milk at dinner, but now keeps asking you for water and drinks and you realize he takes more than his 3 or 4 glasses usual daily, it may make you think he has a health problem.
- Children may experience more intense thirst which cannot be relieved even if they have drunk a lot of water. They can even appear dehydrated.
Be careful if he urinates more often than usual
The increased frequency of urination, also called polyuria, indicates that the body is trying to expel glucose through the urine and is also caused by increased thirst. Because children drink a lot, they produce more urine, and therefore the need to urinate increases dramatically.
- Take special care at night and check if your child wakes up to go to the bathroom more often than usual.
- There is not a normal frequency for a child to urinate every day, as it depends on the food and water they consume: what is normal for a child may not be normal for a child. other. However, it is possible to compare the frequency of current urination to the previous one. If your child typically urinates about 7 times a day, but now you realize that they are going to the bathroom 12 times, this change should be of concern. This is also why you should watch or supervise children at night. If your child never got up to go to the toilet at night before, but you notice that he is urinating 2, 3, or even 4 times, you should take him to the pediatrician for an examination.
- Also, look for signs of dehydration due to excessive urination. Watch out for signs like sunken eyes, dry mouth, and loss of skin elasticity (try pinching the skin on the back of her hand. If you see that she does not immediately return to its original position, this means your child is dehydrated.
- Also, be extra careful if he starts to wet his bed again. This is particularly important if at this point he has learned to use the toilet and has not wetted the bed for some time.
Check if he is inexplicably losing weight
It is a typical symptom of juvenile diabetes, as the metabolism is impaired due to the increase in blood sugar. Very often, the child loses weight quickly, although sometimes the weight loss is more gradual.
- Your child may lose weight and appear thin, emaciated, and weak due to this disorder. Keep in mind that weight loss due to type 1 diabetes is often accompanied by a reduction in muscle mass.
- As a rule of thumb, with unexplained weight loss, you should always contact your doctor for an official diagnosis.
Notice if your child suddenly has increased hunger
The loss of muscle mass and fat, as well as the loss of calories due to type 1 diabetes, leads to reduced energy and therefore increased hunger. Paradoxically, therefore, the child could lose weight, even if his appetite increases considerably.
- This extreme hunger, known as polyphagia, is caused by the body’s attempt to assimilate glucose present in the blood which is essential for cells. The body needs more food to have glucose and produce energy, but this is not possible, because without insulin the child can eat as much as he wants, but the glucose in the food stays in the blood and does not reach the cells.
- Remember, to date, there is no medical or scientific benchmark against which to assess child hunger. Some eat more naturally than others, others are hungrier when they are growing. The best thing to do is to check your child’s current behavior, compare it to the previous one to see if their appetite has increased significantly. For example, if your child usually chooses food from their plate at every meal, but in the last few weeks they start to eat everything you serve them and even ask for more, this is a sign. The possibility of increased hunger is not due to growth pain, especially if it is accompanied by increased thirst and frequent toilet visits.
Notice any sudden, constant feeling of exhaustion
The loss of calories and glucose needed for energy, along with muscle wasting and fat loss, causes fatigue and disinterest in normal activities and games that were once enjoyable.
- Sometimes children also become irritable and their mood changes due to fatigue.
- In addition to the symptoms listed so far, you should also check if the child’s sleep patterns have changed. If he usually sleeps 7 hours a night, but now sleeps 10 hours, still feels tired, or shows signs of drowsiness, laziness, or lethargy, even after a good night’s sleep, you must take note of it. This may not be a sign of a growth spurt or period of fatigue, but the presence of diabetes.
Check if he complains of blurred vision
High blood sugar changes the water content of the lens, which swells and causes cloudy, blurry, or blurry vision. If the child complains of blurred vision and repeated visits to the ophthalmologist do not lead to any useful results, you should accompany them to their pediatrician to find out whether the problem may be due to type 1 diabetes.
Usually, this problem can be overcome by stabilizing blood sugar.
Check for late or concomitant symptoms
Watch out for frequent fungal infections
Diabetes increases blood sugar levels (blood sugar levels) and vaginal secretions. These conditions are conducive to the growth of yeasts which normally cause fungal infections. As a result, children can often present with fungal skin infections.
- Observe the presence of frequent itching in the private parts. Girls can often suffer from vaginal yeast infections, which cause itching and discomfort in the area, as well as a discharge of foul-smelling white or yellowish mucus.
- Athlete’s foot is another fungal infection favored by reduced immune defenses, itself caused by diabetes. This yeast infection can cause the skin to peel with white tissue seeping into the palmar region between the toes and the soles of the feet.
- Boys, especially if they haven’t been circumcised, can also get a fungal infection around the tip of the penis.
Beware of recurring skin infections
In this case, the body’s ability to fight infections is hampered by diabetes, as the disease causes the immune system to malfunction. Also, an increase in the level of glucose in the blood leads to the growth of harmful bacteria, which often causes bacterial skin infections, such as abscesses or boils, anthrax, or ulcers.
- Another aspect of recurrent skin infections is the slow healing of wounds. The healing time of small incisions, scratches, and wounds from minor trauma can be very long. Watch out for any lesions that do not heal normally.
Look for any sign of vitiligo
It is an autoimmune disease that causes a decrease in the level of melanin pigments in the skin. Melanin is a pigment that gives color to human hair, skin, and eyes. In juvenile diabetes, the body develops automatic antibodies that destroy melanin, and as a result, white spots appear on the skin.
- Although this is a problem that occurs in advanced cases of type 1 diabetes and is not very common, it is advisable to rule out the risk of diabetes if your child starts to have these white spots. on the skin.
Beware of vomiting or noisy breathing
These are symptoms that appear in the advanced stage of diabetes. If the child is vomiting or has difficulty breathing, be aware that the child has severe symptoms and must be taken to the hospital for appropriate treatment.
- These symptoms can be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious problem that can also lead to a fatal coma. These symptoms appear quickly, sometimes within 24 hours. If left untreated, DKA can lead to death.
See a doctor
Know when it’s time to take your child to the pediatrician
In most cases, type 1 diabetes is first diagnosed in the emergency room when the child is in a coma due to diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis. Although it is possible to treat this disorder with the administration of fluids and insulin, prevention is even better by seeing your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that the child has this disease. Do not wait until your child has been unconscious for a long time due to diabetic ketoacidosis to confirm your suspicions. See your doctor without delay.
- Some symptoms that require immediate medical attention include loss of appetite, vomiting or nausea, high body temperature, bad breath (he cannot smell it, others can), and abdominal pain.
Take the child to the pediatrician for an examination
If you think your child might have juvenile diabetes, see a doctor as soon as possible. To diagnose the problem, the professional will order blood tests to check the level of sugar in his blood. There are two possible types of tests, namely hemoglobin testing, and a random or fasting blood glucose test.
- Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) Test: This test provides information about a child’s blood sugar levels over the past two to three months by measuring the percentage of sugar bound to hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is nothing more than a protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. The higher the blood sugar level, the more sugar is bound to hemoglobin. If in two different tests you get a percentage equal to or greater than 6.5%, the child has diabetes. It is a standard test for diagnosing the disease, managing it, and also conducting research.
- Blood glucose test: In this test, doctors take blood samples at random. Regardless of whether the child has eaten or not, if at any time the blood sugar level reaches 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), it could indicate diabetes, especially if he also has the above symptoms. The doctor may also take a blood sample after asking the child to fast overnight. In this case, if the blood sugar is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, we speak of prediabetes, while if we find in two separate analyzes values equal to or greater than 126 mg/dl (7 millimoles per liter), the child is diabetic.
- The doctor may also decide to order a urine test to confirm the presence of type 1 diabetes. If ketones, produced by the breakdown of fat in the body, are present in the urine, it may indicate type diabetes. 1, unlike type 2. The presence of glucose in the urine also indicates diabetes.
Get an accurate diagnosis and treat the child
Once all the appropriate tests have been performed correctly, the doctor will record the data found according to the standard criteria, to ensure that it is indeed diabetes. Once diagnosed, the child should be followed and watched carefully until the blood sugar level has stabilized. Your doctor will decide what type of insulin is right for him and the correct dose. It may also be helpful to contact an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in hormonal disorders, to coordinate your child’s care.
- Once an insulin treatment to manage your child’s diabetes is designed, you will need to schedule check-ups every 2 or 3 months to re-do some diagnostic tests and ensure a satisfactory blood sugar level.
- Children should also have regular foot and eye examinations, as the first signs of a complication are usually seen in these areas.
- Although there is no real cure for diabetes, in recent years technology and therapies have evolved so much that sick children can lead happy lives and be healthy once they learn to manage. disease.
- Be aware that type 1 diabetes or what is usually called juvenile diabetes is not associated with diet or weight.
- If a member of the immediate family (such as his sister, brother, mother, or father) has diabetes, the child suspected of being ill should see his doctor at least once a year from the age of 5 at age 10 to make sure he doesn’t have diabetes.
- Since many of the symptoms of juvenile diabetes (lethargy, thirst, hunger) may only appear in your child, you may not even notice them. If you suspect that your child has any of these signs or a combination of them, talk to the pediatrician immediately.
- It is essential to diagnose, treat, and manage this disease quickly to reduce the risk of developing serious complications, such as heart problems, blindness, nervous system damage, kidney dysfunction, and even death.
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