Diabetes in not an age specific ailment. It can affect people from any age group and the effects can be lifelong. Adults realize their symptoms however children often fail to identify them. Every year in the United States, 15,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and Approx 1 million American kids and adults deal with the disease every day.
As parents, it is important to keep a check on your child’s health and monitor any signs that may seem out of place. Early detection of diabetes symptoms will ensure faster treatment for your child and help you control the ailment before it adversely affects your child.
When a diabetic child eats, food is broken down and sugar is released during digestion. The sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream and is carried to the body cells. However, the pancreases don’t respond by synthesizing insulin, thus disallowing the sugar to move into the cells.
Once the body cells are deprived of sugar, the child faces a number of problems.
Listed below are 10 common symptoms that might be a sign that your child is suffering from diabetes:
1. Frequent urination in large amounts (Polyuria)
It might seem normal, a small child frequently urinating. You might feel that he/she hasn’t yet learned how to control the bladder or could just have consumed large amounts of fluid. However, frequent urination could be a sign of diabetes in your child. Since diabetes causes the blood glucose levels to rise, increased glucose levels cause the body to extract fluid from the body cells into the bloodstream and put increased pressure on the kidneys. This causes the kidneys to produce more urine than usual thus increasing the urge to pass this urine frequently.
As a parent, monitor how often your child urinates through the course of the day. If it seems more than the normal amount, contact a doctor immediately.
2. Increased thirst(polydipsia)
Increased thirst is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes. Your child may feel excessively thirsty, and have the feeling of having a dry mouth. Since diabetes results in frequent urination, the body fluid level decreases thus urging you to drink more water. Again, monitor how much water your child drinks daily. 8-10 glasses of water consumption every day are normal. If that exceeds, it is a sign that your child needs urgent medical assistance.
3. Increased Appetite (polyphagia)
Another common symptom of diabetes is excessive hunger due to increased appetite. The reason for this is simply that blood glucose level is exorbitantly high, but is unable to enter the body cell due to either lack of insulin or resistance to insulin. The body is unable to convert the food that is consumed into energy which gives a feeling of “not being full”. This forces the child to eat more to satisfy the increased appetite you may be mistaken that the increased appetite is just a sign of growing up, but the level of increase determines whether your child might be suffering from symptoms of diabetes. Constantly check how often your child eats. This increased appetite might lead to sudden weight gain.
4. Weakness and fatigue
Young children are naturally energetic and active. If your child is alarmingly lethargic, inactive and gets tired very frequently, then there is a problem. The lack of insulin is the reason why sugar in the blood doesn’t reach the body cells. Since the sugar does not get converted into energy, the child may feel weak and get tired very easily. This weakness could severely hamper his social life in the school or playground as he may never have the energy to go out and play with his friends. It might also keep them from participating in various activities like sports or dance. It will also affect their academics as tiredness will definitely reduce class participation. If your child feels tired even after very little physical activity, a check-up with the doctor is recommended.
5. Weight loss
Weight loss is one the most common symptoms of diabetes. Normally, young children while growing up lose weight, as their body goes through a natural transformation. The weight loss is mostly healthy and does not affect the child’s health. However, if the weight loss is drastic and unexplained, then it is a reason to be concerned and alarmed.
During diabetes, insufficient insulin prevents the body cells to receive sugar from the blood to utilize as energy. To compensate for this loss of energy from sugar, the body begins burning fat and muscle for energy, causing a drastic drop in body weight. The loss of fat and muscle in the body makes the body weak and frail. If you see unexpected weight loss, contact a doctor immediately.
6. Wounds that won’t heal
We get injured. It is a part and parcel of growing up. Our injuries heal with time and we are only left with is a scar. But, if the injury doesn’t heal, even after a long time, take it as a signal that your body is trying to give you. If your child is suffering from diabetes, his/her wounds would take way longer to heal and are more susceptible to infection. Even a small negligible injury can become a pain as the healing process becomes incredibly slow. The high blood glucose level, affect nerves which lead to poor blood circulation making it very hard for blood which is needed for skin repairs reach areas affected by wounds.
This causes wounds to remain open and unhealed for long magnifying the risk of fungal and bacterial infection or even worse, gangrene.
Always check for injuries that have been there for a while and still have not healed. Consult a doctor if necessary.
7. Blurred vision
High blood sugar levels can cause blurry vision in both young children and older individuals. The vision starts blurring when the fluids leak into the lens of the eye. This makes the lens swell resulting in shape change. The changes make it hard for the retina to focus making vision fuzzy and blurry. Since your child spends a majority of his/her day at school, request their teacher to keep a constant check on whether it has become difficult for your child to read off the board, or they have to squint too much to get clarity in vision. If your children themselves complaint of blurry vision, consult a doctor. You might be mistaken that poor vision is genetic or general, but it could be a sign that your child is suffering from diabetes.
8. Nausea and vomiting
Both nausea and vomiting are underlying signs of diabetes. It can be mistaken as upset tummies but remember that all ailments are not necessarily short lived or generic. Children are prone to an uncomfortable feeling in their gut and vomiting. The rise in blood sugar levels interrupts and confuses the body’s metabolism and which leads to a nauseous feeling.
9. Darkened skin
Children suffering from type 2 diabetes suffer from certain areas of their skin become dark and give an overall muddy appearance. This condition is called “acanthosis nigricans” which occurs due to the insulin resistance in the body. It mostly affects areas like armpits, neck, and inner thighs. It isn’t life threatening but is capable of making a child extremely conscious due to the beauty standards set by society. Dark armpits and neck are often considered “embarrassing” and could be a cause of social exclusion.
10. Behavioral changes
Yes! Behavioral changes accompany a growing child. But if your child suffers from frequent levels of mood switches, is irritable and confused, and makes impaired judgments, he/she could be suffering from diabetes. Like other body cells, even the brain needs glucose for healthy functioning. When it doesn’t get adequate glucose, the child suffers from various behavioral changes. If your child is unnecessarily fussy, often irritated, confused, dizzy or slow, it is time to consult a doctor.
Diabetes is not the end of the world. Your child can still lead a happy and healthy life if you keep certain things in mind. You need to make changes to eating and lifestyle habits and be a constant support to your child.
1. Promote the importance of exercise
Exercising uses up the extra blood sugar which helps to reduce the glucose level in the blood. Encourage your child to do mild exercises like cycling or brisk walking. These light exercises can keep blood sugar level under control.
2. Eat healthy
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables with fiber. Ditch sodas, tea, coffee or sweetened drinks. Stick to natural sugars like apples and mangos and stay away from chocolates and candies. Bake instead of frying. Grill instead of barbecuing. Switch to low-fat milk and practice portion control.
3. Drink lots of water
Water is the solution to everything. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day without fail. Never go thirsty and always carry a bottle with you. Tender coconut water is also a good alternative to water as it is packed with essential electrolytes that give you instant energy.
4. Go for medical check-ups
Regular medical check-ups are extremely important to detect any undiagnosed ailment. It is like a small full body evaluation to keep a tab on whether everything is well and healthy in the body.
There you go! Don’t let diabetes stop your child realizing their full potential. The world is full of wonderful opportunities and makes your child attain every one of them possible!