Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to other serious conditions such as heart disease and kidney failure. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health, about 13,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in children every year. Parents and physician should be aware of the symptoms of diabetes in children so that they can be diagnosed early and begin receiving necessary treatment.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes results because the body makes very little or no insulin. About 5 percent to 10 percent of diabetes cases are due to type 1 diabetes, counting children and adults. Most cases of diabetes are type 2. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't can't make enough insulin or doesn't use it properly. The number of children with type 2 diabetes has been increasing every year, but young children do not always have the classical symptoms of diabetes.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes include extreme thirst, frequent urination, sudden changes in vision, increased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, heavy breathing and fruity, sweet or fermented breath. The first sign a parent might recognize is stupor or unconsciousness. Testing will reveal sugar in the urine. Type 2 diabetes has the same symptoms, along with slow healing of wounds or sores, itching, high blood pressure and dark velvety patches of skin around the neck or armpits.
Often, young children with diabetes don't have the classical symptoms. Less than 1 percent of all children with diabetes are diagnosed before their first birthdays, and less than 2 percent are diagnosed before 3 years of age, according to a January/February 1999 article in the journal "Pediatrics and Child Health," so doctors may not be looking for diabetes when treating children with other symptoms. Little children may be treated for respiratory or urinary infections, for instance, and only when children don't respond to antibiotic treatment does the doctor begin to look for other causes such as diabetes.
Identifying Diabetes in Young Children
The authors of the article in "Pediatrics and Child Health" recommend that if a child presents with unusual symptoms or doesn't seem to be responding to the treatment, they should be tested by urinalysis to rule out the presence of sugar or ketones in the urine. If your child has symptoms that don't respond to treatment, ask your doctor for the urinalysis to rule out diabetes, even if diabetes doesn't seem to be a likely diagnosis.
- "Pediatrics and Child Health"; The Infant and Toddler with Diabetes; D. Daneman, et al.; January/February 1999
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: warning Signs For Type 1 Diabetes
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Diabetes -- The Silent Disease; Spring 2000
- "The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes"; Laura Plunkett, Linda Weltner