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Childhood Diabetes: What It Is and How It’s Treated

by robeager
Childhood Diabetes

Childhood diabetes is a serious health epidemic that needs the attention of a diabetes doctor, or endocrinologist. According to the CDC, diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are surging among youth in the United States. From 2001 to 2017, the number of people under age 20 living with type 1 diabetes increased by 45%, and the number living with type 2 diabetes grew by 95%. The main reason? Obesity is brought on by poor diet practices and lack of physical activity.

The topic of obesity is important to examine regarding metabolism, especially regarding children. Obesity is a very complex metabolic disease fueled by poor eating and exercise habits. The result is weight gain and a higher risk of other related diseases. 

Until recently, type 1 diabetes was the leading cause of concern for children (previously referred to as juvenile diabetes). Childhood diabetes affects kids and teenagers the same way it affects adults – it’s a non-discriminating disease. With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas struggles to make insulin or doesn’t make enough. Without it, the sugar stays in the blood, and too much can be dangerous. Today, more younger people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes used to be associated with adults, but now, it is a more common diagnosis in children and teens due to changing lifestyle habits leading to obesity. Like type 1, type 2 diabetes means the body struggles to make or use insulin the way it should be used.

Treatment for children and teens with type 1 diabetes is the same as for adults. Both groups may need to take insulin to manage their diabetes.  The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise. An A1C blood test can check how people need to manage diabetes and can be completed by a primary care physician.  It is also important to get regularly scheduled check-ups with a healthcare provider or endocrinologist. The most important focus is to engage children to be physically active, spend less time playing video games (sitting down for hours at a time, staring at a monitor), and eat right. 

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According to the National Institute of Health, the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes increased more annually from 2003-2012 in males (2.2 percent) than in females (1.4 percent) ages 0-19 across all racial and ethnic groups.

For parents of children with diabetes or at risk of diabetes, pediatricians can diagnose and help you manage these conditions. However, taking a child to an endocrinologist may be of benefit. An endocrinologist, and their diabetic care team, are likely more knowledgeable on the particular level of diabetes and maybe more up to date on different medications, technology, and clinical trials that can help treat diabetes. Endocrinologists are experts in endocrinology and endocrine conditions with a single goal of preventing complications effectively for adults and children. This includes controlling blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure. It also includes assessments and discussions around nutrition and physical activity that can be scheduled and monitored. Having a team helping deal with diabetes is the optimum choice.

Another important aspect for children to seek help from an endocrinologist is access to tests, procedures, and surgeries, depending on the problem. These tests include CT scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or surgeries such as adrenalectomy or bariatric surgery. Each of these areas can alter metabolism. According to the American Medical Association, endocrinologists use laboratory procedures, tissue sampling, genetic analysis, and high-resolution medical imaging. In addition, they conduct simulations of hormonal mechanisms to establish the diagnosis of different ailments. This may be needed to address obesity.

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