Childhood Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

It is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, the primary type of sugar in the blood.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different diseases, but both affect the body’s use of insulin.

Type 1 diabetes in children, formerly called juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas cannot make insulin.


Diabetes is more likely to affect children who are:

  • Girls.
  • With excess weight.
  • Have a family history of diabetes.
  • American Indian, African American, Asian, or Hispanic / Latino.
  • Have a problem called insulin resistance.

The most significant cause of type 2 diabetes in children is extra weight. In the United States, almost 1 in 3 children is overweight.

Once a child becomes too heavy, they are twice as likely to have diabetes.

One or more of these things can contribute to extra weight or obesity:


  • Eating unhealthy.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Family members (living or dead) who have been overweight.
  • In rare cases, a hormonal problem or other medical condition.

As with adults, diabetes is more likely to affect children who carry extra weight in the middle of the body.


Type 1

  • Increased thirst and urination.
  • Hungry.
  • Weightloss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • The fruity smell on my breath.

Some may also experience increased hunger and blurred vision. Girls can develop a yeast infection. Weight loss is usually a common symptom before diagnosis.

Type 2

  • Urinate more often, especially at night.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itching around the genitals, possibly with a yeast infection.
  • Slow healing of cuts or wounds.
  • Blurred vision, as the lens of the eye, dries up.

Symptoms in younger children

Children and teens with diabetes generally experience four main symptoms, but many children will have only one or two. In some cases, they will show no signs.


If a child shows any 4 Ts, parents should take him to the doctor and insist on a type 1 diabetes screening test.

This consists of a urine test to look for sugar in the urine or a fingerstick test in which the child’s blood is tested for a glucose level.

Asymptomatic children older than ten years are recommended to be overweight (more than the 85th percentile of body mass index or more than 120% of ideal weight for height) if they have two of the following risk factors:

  • Family history of type 2 diabetes in a first or second-degree relative.
  • Tall ethnic group.
  • Signs of insulin resistance.
  • Maternal history of diabetes or gestational diabetes during the child’s gestation.

How is it treated?

The first step is to take your child to the doctor. He will be able to tell if you are overweight based on your age, weight, and height.

He will test your blood sugar level to see if you have diabetes or prediabetes. If your child has diabetes, you can take some extra steps to determine if they are type 1 or type 2.

Until you know for sure, you can give insulin. Once the type of diabetes is confirmed, he will ask you to help her make lifestyle changes.

He may suggest that you take a medicine called metformin. Along with insulin, they are the only two blood glucose-lowering drugs approved for children under 18, but others are being studied.

Your child should have a hemoglobin A1c test every three months. This test measures your average blood sugar levels during this period.

You will need to monitor your blood sugar level:

  • When the child starts or changes treatment.
  • If you do not meet your treatment goals.
  • If you have to take insulin.
  • If you take a sulfonylurea drug.

The doctor will teach both of you how to test your blood sugar level and how often.

Most experts suggest three or more times a day if taking insulin.

If not, you can check less often, but you should do it after meals.

She can use a traditional finger test or a continuous glucose monitor.

You can take her to see a dietitian who can help you create a meal plan.

She should also exercise for at least 60 minutes every day. Limit your screen time at home to less than 2 hours per day.


Diabetes type 1

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. Doctors can’t even tell who will and who will not.

No one knows what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has something to do with genes. But just getting the genes for diabetes is usually not enough.

In most cases, a child has to be exposed to something else, such as a virus, to get type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is not contagious, so children and adolescents cannot spread it to another person or share it with their friends or family. And overeating sugar doesn’t cause type 1 diabetes, either.

There is no reliable way to predict who will get type 1 diabetes, but blood tests can detect the first signs.

However, these tests are not done routinely because doctors have no way to prevent a child from developing the disease, even if the tests are positive.

Type 2 diabetes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can sometimes be prevented. Excessive weight gain, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle put people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

In the past, type 2 diabetes usually only occurred in adults. But now, more children and teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes due to the increasing number of overweight children.

Although children and teens may be able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by controlling their weight and increasing physical activity, other risk factors for type 2 diabetes cannot be changed.

Children with one or more family members with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for the disease, and some ethnic and racial groups are more likely to develop it.

These steps can help reduce your children’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the health problems it can cause:

Ensure children eat a healthy diet: Encourage your children to eat foods low in fat and rich in nutrients, such as whole grains and bread, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and lean proteins.

This can help prevent excess weight gain, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Limit sugary foods and drinks – Consuming many sugar-filled foods and beverages, such as sodas, juices, and iced teas, can lead to excessive weight gain.

Encourage lots of physical activity: Staying active and limiting sedentary life, such as watching TV, being online, or playing videos, can help reduce the risk of weight gain and help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Being active can be as simple as walking the dog or mowing the lawn – try doing something that moves you and your kids every day.

Talk to your doctor if you think your child may be overweight and at risk for type 2 diabetes. It can help you figure out your child’s weight goals and how to get there.


Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Children with a late diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and very rarely, a late diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

DKA is the leading cause of death in children with type 1 diabetes. If there is a severe lack of insulin, the body cannot use glucose for energy.

Instead, it begins to break down fat for energy. This leads to the production of ketones, which can be toxic at high levels.

A build-up of these chemicals causes DKA, where the body becomes acidic. Early diagnosis and effective treatment of diabetes can prevent DKA, but this does not always happen.

A study of children ages eight months to 16 years who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes found that by the time children under the age of 2 received their diagnosis, 80% of them had already developed DKA.

Other research published in 2008 found that among 335 children younger than 17 with recent-onset type 1 diabetes, the initial diagnosis was incorrect in more than 16% of cases.

Of these, 46.3% received a diagnosis of respiratory system infection, 16.6% were diagnosed with perineal candidiasis, 16.6% with gastroenteritis, 11.1% with urinary tract infection, and 11.1% with stomatitis, and 3.7% with appendicitis.

Furthermore, the incidence of DKA was more frequent among children who received an incorrect and therefore delayed diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

Complications of type 2 diabetes

For younger people with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, the progression is much faster than for adults, and they appear to be at higher risk for complications earlier in life.

Like kidney and eye diseases in children with type 1 diabetes, there is also an increased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, improving blood vessel disease risk.

Type 2 diabetes in children is almost always associated with obesity, contributing to these higher risks.

Because of this, early detection of type 2 diabetes and care to control overweight in younger people is crucial.

Ways to do this include encouraging children to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercises.