Type 1 diabetes in children, or juvenile diabetes, is a disease that requires lifelong management. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the autoimmune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas called beta cells, which produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar, or glucose, enter cells to give them energy.
When there is no insulin, too much sugar stays in the bloodstream. This can lead to a life-threatening condition.
In the United States, 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year.
Glucose comes from food and is the major source of energy for your body. After eating, your body breaks down food into glucose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream. The glucose level rises, triggering the pancreas to produce insulin and release it into the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes is a result of the pancreas not producing any insulin. This is due to an autoimmune reaction where the body destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The causes of type 1 diabetes are still being researched. Possible causes include:
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can appear in a few weeks or months after enough of the pancreas’s beta cells are destroyed. Symptoms can be severe once they appear.
Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed by testing blood samples for glucose levels and autoantibodies, which can show if the body is attacking itself. A urine test may be done to check for ketones, which are a result of the body breaking down fat. This happens when the body does not have the insulin to properly use energy the body gets from the food you eat.
Type 1 diabetes is managed by monitoring glucose levels. In addition, the child will need to:
Treatment for type 1 diabetes is lifelong and requires daily insulin injections or use of an insulin pump. The pump holds a reservoir filled with insulin. Tubing connects the reservoir to the cannula, or tube, which is inserted just under the skin. The pump is worn outside the body on a belt or pocket. These treatments help to control blood glucose levels.
If early signs of diabetes are not noticed and treatment is delayed, ketones can build up in the blood and cause:
Long-term complications include:
Currently there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, or predict who will be diagnosed with the disease.
There is no cure for diabetes. Monitoring glucose levels and administering insulin must be done to avoid life-threatening conditions. With proper care, exercise, nutrition, and blood glucose management, a child can live a successful, normal life with no limitations on activities.
Call the doctor if the child is:
To manage diabetes daily, ask your provider about diabetes self-management education and to recommend a diabetes educator.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/02/2017