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Diabetes in children

Types and Symptoms of Diabetes mellitus occurring in children are discussed

Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are abnormally high because the body does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas. Insulin controls the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood.

Types of diabetes

A child with diabetes has high blood sugar levels either because the pancreas produces little or no insulin (type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes) or because the body is insensitive to the amount of insulin that is produced (type 2 diabetes).

Type 1 diabetes can develop at any time during childhood, even during infancy, but it usually begins between ages 6 and 13 years. Type 2 diabetes occurs mainly in adolescents but is becoming increasingly common in overweight or obese children.

Which Children Are at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?

Children and adolescents meeting these criteria should be tested with a fasting blood sugar test every 2 years beginning at about age 10:

  • Being overweight (weighing more than 85% of children of similar age, sex, and height or weighing more than 120% of the ideal weight for height)
  • Having a close relative with type 2 diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure, high blood levels of lipids (fats)

Adolescence and Diabetes

Adolescents may have particular problems controlling their blood sugar levels because of:

  • Hormonal changes during puberty
  • Adolescent lifestyle: Peer pressure, increased activities, erratic schedules, concern about body image, or eating disorders
  • Experimentation with alcohol, cigarettes


Symptoms develop quickly in type 1 diabetes, usually over 2 to 3 weeks or less, and tend to be quite obvious. High blood sugar levels cause the child to urinate excessively. This fluid loss causes an increase in thirst and the consumption of fluids. Some children become dehydrated, resulting in weakness, lethargy, and a rapid pulse. Vision may become blurred.

Symptoms in children with type 2 diabetes are milder than those in type 1 diabetes and develop more slowly—over weeks or even a few months. Parents may notice an increase in the child's thirst and urination or only vague symptoms, such as fatigue. Typically, children with type 2 diabetes do not develop ketoacidosis or severe dehydration.

Source: Portal Content Team

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