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Diabetes in Children and Adolescents(1)

Por Alvin N. Eden, M.D. -

The increasing number of children and adolescents developing type 2 diabetes is mainly due to the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity.

The results of a recent survey conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene emphasize this relationship. Only 3% of normal-weight New Yorkers suffer from diabetes as compared to 9% of overweight, and 17% of obese ones. Diabetes is a serious and growing problem in overweight individuals. Therefore, preventing your child from becoming overweight is of utmost importance. If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes, early treatment can be very effective in controlling the disease in order to help prevent serious complications.

The ideal goal of all treatments is to normalize the blood sugar level. This is essential in decreasing the frequency of various diabetes complications. The type of treatment will depend on the severity of the signs and symptoms. Some children are diagnosed because they have high blood sugar levels and no other symptoms. Others may present signs and symptoms, such as increased thirst, frequent urination, and weight loss. Still others may only be diagnosed after becoming very weak, losing consciousness and going into a coma.
Some diabetic children are treated with daily injections of insulin and some are treated with daily oral medication. Your child’s pediatrician or pediatric endocrinologist will determine the best treatment for your child. Whatever the treatment, the goal is to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Both you and your child must be well educated about this disease. Both of you need to learn how to manage testing blood sugar levels and the dose of medication needed. Physicians call this self-management education. Without a thorough knowledge of how to manage this chronic disease, it will be impossible to keep your child’s diabetes under control.

In addition to medication, a proper diet and sufficient exercise are also important. You may need to consult a dietitian with knowledge and experience in nutritional management for children with diabetes. Your child’s diet should be culturally appropriate and affordable. It is important for the entire family to encourage healthy eating habits. Decreasing high-calorie and high-fat food choices is crucial.
Increase your child’s daily physical activity. Exercise not only helps with weight loss but can decrease the need for insulin. Decrease TV viewing, video games, and other computer use, and increase physical activity.
Diabetic children should be monitored for high blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Weight loss and increased physical activity will help prevent and treat these complications.

Many studies have shown that maintaining normal blood sugar levels in diabetic children will postpone and may even prevent many serious complications. Diabetic children can grow up to lead full and normal lives if they maintain consistent control.


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