Updated: Nov 16
What is Type I Diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes is an organ-specific auto immune disease specifically involving the pancreas and its production of essential hormones. In a person with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is responsible for monitoring blood sugar in the cells that the body uses to make energy.
Type 1 Diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. Most children are
diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before age 14. Please continue reading for common signs and symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes and contact your doctor if you have concerns that your child has type 1 diabetes.
To learn more about type 1 diabetes please visit the CDC website or check out our resources.
What is the difference between Type I and Type II Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition that often first shows up in children whereas, the more
commonly diagnosed, type 2 diabetes is typically associated with lifestyle habits and develops over time.
Type 1 diabetes is a genetic autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakes the cells in the pancreas as harmful and attacks the insulin producing cells. If insulin is not effectively produced then the body can enter a state of hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar.
For more comparisons between type 1 and type 2 diabetes check out Diabetes UK. Or to learn more about the roles of insulin and glucose in the body go to this article by Mayo Clinic.
Signs and Symptoms of Type I Diabetes
Frequent trips to the bathroom
Unusual bed wetting
Slowed healing of general cuts and wounds
Fruity smelling breath
Feeling very hungry
Fatigue or feeling unusually tired
Feeling irritable or mood changes
See your child’s doctor if you notice any of the signs or symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes especially if another member in your family has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
How to care for a child with Type I Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes requires a lifetime of management involving a learning more about the disease, keeping a balanced diet, monitoring blood sugar, medication management, and regular doctor’s visits, and eventually teaching your child how to independently manage this disease and maximize their quality of life.
Type 1 diabetes can be an overwhelming diagnosis for children and their families but there are support groups and resources available for both the patients and parents. Check out diaTribeLearn for details on support groups, resources, and access to a 24-hour diabetes support line.
Managing Blood Sugar is one of the key elements of care for a child diagnosed with type 1
diabetes. Work with your child’s doctor to attain a glucose monitor and insulin for your child to facilitate blood glucose monitoring. Most children with type 1 diabetes undergo regular, daily blood glucose measurements with a glucose meter. This provides information on how much glucose, or sugar, is present in the blood stream. A generally normal range for blood glucose in a child with type 1 diabetes should be between 80-130 mg/dL, however, may be higher after a meal but shouldn’t exceed 180mg/dL.
Even with close monitoring or blood sugar levels, a child with type 1 diabetes will experience both too high and too low blood sugar levels. If blood sugar gets too low this is called hypoglycemia and should be treated right away. If you child has a blood glucose below 80mg/dL, generally offing your child a snack that has a high sugar content. This can include things like juice, candy, glucose tablets and more. It is important to re-check the blood sugar levels after your child consumes some sugar to ensure their blood sugar reaches normal ranges.
If your child is diagnosed with or showing signs of type 1 diabetes and enters a hypoglycemic state which causes loss of consciousness or begins having a seizure call
911 right away.
To recognize the signs of hypoglycemia, look out for:
Increased heart rate
Loss of consciousness
Seizures (in severe cases)
For more about hypoglycemia go to KidsHealth
If blood sugar gets too high this is called hyperglycemia and it occurs when the body does not have enough insulin to use the sugar in the blood. Hyperglycemic states can happen every day or several times a day in children with type 1 diabetes and typically requires a balancing act with diet and exercise to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This can also be measured with a glucose monitor and can be identified if blood glucose is above 130mg/dL or above 180mg/dL if your child had a meal within the past 2 hours. Hyperglycemia is typically treated with insulin in children with type 1 diabetes and your child’s doctor can instruct how and when to administer insulin and provide details and demonstration.
To recognize signs of hyperglycemia, look out for:
Loss of energy
Nausea or stomachache
Blurry vision or trouble seeing
For more about hyperglycemia and managing blood sugar go to KidsHealth
For frequently asked questions check out JDRF for answers from experts.
Type I Diabetes and Autoimmunity -
CDC What is Type 1 Diabetes? -
Type 1 diabetes: pathophysiology and diagnosis -
Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes -
Diabetes Symptoms ADA -
Mayo Clinic Type 1 Diabetes in Children -
KidsHealth Managing Blood Sugars When Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes -
KidsHealth Hypoglycemia and Diabetes - https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/hypoglycemia.html
Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes -
This article was written by Olivia Hall. Olivia is a Doctor of Physical Therapy Student at Hanover College and President of her class. She currently lives in New Mexico but frequently travels and loves to go on hikes with her dog.