The digestive system in the body breaks down the food into nutrients and glucose, which are absorbed in the blood. The insulin produced by the pancreas breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose molecules, which are then absorbed by the cells through the bloodstream to release energy. Sometimes, due to the malfunctioning of the pancreas, not enough insulin is produced to break down these molecules. This condition can lead to diabetes, which is also known as diabetes mellitus. Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to metabolize the glucose completely, which can result in the increase of blood sugar levels. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. In type 1, the body’s tendency to produce insulin is completely destroyed, whereas in type 2, the pancreas fails to produce the required amount of insulin and the body tends to become resistant to insulin, in spite of the body producing it.
Though the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known, some doctors believe that it is caused due to a faulty gene. Though this condition can affect individuals of any age group, it is usually observed during childhood. This is the reason why it is also known as juvenile/childhood diabetes. Sometimes, it is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, since the sufferer requires insulin shots to bring the glucose levels back to normal. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system tends to destroy the insulin-producing beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. With the destruction of these essential cells, the body is unable to produce insulin, due to which metabolism of glucose fails. Instead of being processed in the cells, the glucose levels begin to build up in the bloodstream, which can prove to be life-threatening, if not treated in time. Family history is also another causative factor for this health condition.
Type 1 diabetes can lead to several complications, such as multiple organ failure, disease of the heart and blood vessels, damage to the nerves, and kidney diseases. These conditions can be aggravated as the child grows older. The child may also suffer from eye problems, since the nerves and blood vessels in the eyes can get damaged due to excess glucose levels. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy and can lead to partial/total blindness, cataracts, and even glaucoma. It is very essential to diagnose this disorder in time to prevent these complications.
Though type 1 diabetes is most common in children and young adults, it can occur at any age. Some of its symptoms in children are given below. These symptoms usually take a few days to develop:
- Excessive thirst and frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Intense hunger
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Genital yeast infections seen mostly in girls
- Blurred vision
- Slow or prolonged healing of wounds
- Other symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, and dehydration in very young children
Though there is no certain cure for type 1 diabetes, the severity of this condition can be brought under control by regular monitoring of the blood sugar level and keeping a check on the foods consumed. Before going for treatment, the doctor may ask the patient to undergo random blood test to determine blood sugar levels. Once the level is diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe certain drugs and medications for treatment. Insulin injections and other medications to produce insulin in the body are prescribed. A flexibility in the diet is also essential to control diabetes. Children with this problem are taught to monitor their blood sugar level and inject insulin. They are also encouraged to actively participate in diabetes management, in order to improve their quality of life.