8 Surprising Facts About Kids and Diabetes
Kids with diabetes are just like other kids: they worry about homework, get crushes and enjoy playing with friends. They also have special needs to stay healthy. Here are some key facts to know about kids and diabetes.
DIABETES IS BECOMING MORE COMMON IN KIDS. Diabetes is one of the most common diseases among American youth. More than 205,000 U.S. children and teens have a diagnosis — and the number is growing. The most current statistics available show that the number of children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes increased by 30 percent between 2001 and 2009.
BOTH TYPES OF DIABETES AFFECT KIDS. “Most children younger than age 10 with diabetes have type 1,” says Santhosh Eapen, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. “The condition occurs when the body stops making the hormone insulin. Type 2 diabetes cases are growing among youth ages 10 and older. With type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin but doesn’t use it properly.”
SYMPTOMS ARE SUBTLE. The first symptoms of type 1 diabetes include weight loss, fatigue, blurry vision and frequent urination. Early type 2 symptoms can resemble those of type 1. But sometimes patients with type 2 diabetes don’t have any indications.
SCREENING MAY GIVE KIDS AN ADVANTAGE. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes are similar for adults and kids. They include not getting enough physical activity, being overweight and having a family history of the disease. A doctor can evaluate risk factors and recommend diabetes screening, if needed. Early screening can lead to treatment that can prevent or delay diabetes-related problems.
KIDS WITH DIABETES NEED FREQUENT HEALTH CARE VISITS. Children with diabetes benefit from care provided by different health specialists. A child may see a doctor, diabetes educator, dietitian and psychologist. Dr. Eapen adds, “Children with diabetes will need regular follow-up with their health care team. A typical interval for visits would be every three months.”
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS VERY IMPORTANT. Physical activity helps insulin work better and keep blood sugar levels under control. “Children with diabetes should be active for an hour every day,” advises Dr. Eapen. “Kids can, and should, do activities they enjoy.”
SCHOOLS CAN’T DISCRIMINATE AGAINST KIDS WITH DIABETES. Federal laws protect kids with diabetes in public and private schools. These children have the right to participate in school and receive the health care necessary to stay healthy. For example, a student may need to carry diabetes supplies in his or her backpack.
KIDS WITH DIABETES CAN LEAD FULL, FUN LIVES! “Living with diabetes can be challenging. But with extra support from loved ones, children with diabetes can still enjoy all the things that make childhood memorable,” says Dr. Eapen.
Austin Surguy, 9, of Marlboro has adapted well since being diagnosed with type 9 diabetes. Austin comes from a sailing family, and recently spent his second year sailing at camp.
TREATING DIABETES IS OUR SPECIALTY
Learn more about pediatric endocrinology at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital and Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital.