NOVEMBER is American Diabetes Month. It’s a time when the American Diabetes Association (ADA) works to turn the nation’s attention to a disease that affects tens of millions of people — and their families.
Until just recently, my only experience with diabetes was through my mom. Her family’s genetics and other complications (not related to obesity) brought about her Type 2 diagnosis when I was just a girl. It is probably this exposure to the disease as a youth that made me more sensitive to suspicious symptoms that arose in one of our children in late September.
On October 12, our daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I can tell you now that the symptoms could have easily gone overlooked. She was beginning to lose weight, which could have been chalked up to a growth spurt for an eight-year-old. She also had an increased appetite and always seemed thirsty. In the morning, I would ask her how many times she got up to go to the bathroom during the night, which was sometimes as much as four. While none of these symptoms were especially alarming, we took her to the doctor to be on the safe side, and to our shock, her blood glucose reading was 460. After immediate emergency treatment and a short hospital stay, an A1C test revealed that her body had been experiencing high blood sugars for about six months.
So, what’s the moral of the story here? This is diabetes. The symptoms of this disease are not always easy to detect, especially in young children. As was the case with our daughter, other than these subtle warning signs, she seemed completely normal. We were blessed to catch it early, so my message to parents here is listen to your instincts. If you suspect your child is just “a little off,” do not hesitate to take her or him to the doctor. If it’s nothing, you can breathe easy, and if the symptoms reveal a greater health risk, you can take comfort in the fact that you sought immediate medical attention.
I’m relieved to share that our daughter is adjusting to her new medical routine. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but armed with knowledge, a great medical care team, good nutrition management, and a family who loves her, she is going to be just fine. To learn more about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the warning signs, risks, and treatment, go to diabetes.org.
CHILDREN AND DIABETES: SOME WARNING SIGNS
According to Kids Health From Nemours, parents of a child with typical symptoms of Type 1 diabetes may notice the following:
• URINATES FREQUENTLY. The kidneys respond to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream by flushing out the extra glucose in urine (pee). A child with diabetes needs to urinate more frequently and in larger volumes.
• IS ABNORMALLY THIRSTY. Because the child is losing so much fluid from peeing so much, he or she becomes very thirsty to help avoid becoming dehydrated. A child who has developed diabetes drinks a lot in an attempt to keep the level of body water normal.
• LOSES WEIGHT (or fails to gain weight as he or she grows) in spite of a good appetite. Kids and teens who develop Type 1 diabetes may have an increased appetite, but often lose weight. This is because the body breaks down muscle and stored fat in an attempt to provide fuel to the hungry cells.
• OFTEN FEELS TIRED because the body can’t use glucose for energy properly.
column by CELESTE JO WALLS
Celeste Jo Walls is managing editor of Central Florida Health News. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.