Diabetes is a long-life disease marked by elevated levels of sugar in the blood. It can be caused by too little insulin (a chemical produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar), resistance to insulin, or both. There are three major types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes: is usually diagnosed in childhood. The body makes little or no insulin, and daily injections of insulin are required to sustain life. Without proper daily management, medical emergencies can arise.
Type 2 diabetes: is far more common than type 1 and makes up about 90% of all cases of diabetes. It usually occurs in adulthood. Here, the pancreas does not make enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal, often because the body does not respond well to insulin. Many people with type 2 diabetes do not know they have it, although it is a serious condition.
Gestational diabetes: is high blood glucose that develops at any time during pregnancy in a person who does not have diabetes
To understand diabetes, it is important to first understand the normal process of food metabolism. Several things happen when food is digested:
- A sugar called glucose enters the bloodstream. Glucose is a source of fuel for the body.
- An organ called the pancreas makes insulin. The role of insulin is to move glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells, where it can be used as fuel.
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss despite increased appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Absence of menstruation
At diagnosis, the immediate goal of treatment is to stabilize metabolism by treating diabetic ketacidosis (also called DKA) and high blood glucose levels. Because of the sudden onset and severity of symptoms in type 1 diabetes, treatment for newly diagnosed people may involve hospitalization. The long-term goals of treatment are to prolong life, improve quality of life, and prevent diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney failure, and amputation of limbs. These goals are accomplished through education, insulin use, meal planning and weight control, exercise, foot care, and careful self-testing of blood glucose levels.
People who have had diabetes for several years are likely to develop long-term complications, which can be minimized but not entirely eliminated through proper diabetic management:
- Vascular disease
- Microvascular disease
- Eye complications
- Diabetic neuropathy (people with diabetes may develop temporary or permanent damage to nerve tissue
- Diabetic foot problems
- Skin and mucus membrane problems
This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.