In honor of National Diabetes Month, and World Diabetes Day (November 14), we’re sharing a guide for parents on type 1 diabetes. If your child has been recently diagnosed, learn more about where to find helpful resources and answers to common questions. If your child has not been diagnosed, learn more about the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes, a serious autoimmune disorder, so that you can spot the dangers in time to prevent even more health complications.
What does it mean when my child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
If your child has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you may be feeling helpless, hopeless, scared, or all of the above. A type 1 diabetes diagnoses is life-changing, and it should not be taken lightly. The good news is that with the abundance of medical technology available today, your child can live a long, happy, and healthy life as long as their blood sugars are monitored and controlled.
How do you get type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile onset diabetes or diabetes mellitus, is an autoimmune disorder which is typically diagnosed before the age of 25. Many type 1 diabetics are diagnosed following an illness such as influenza, when the body is attempting to fight off invading viral or bacterial infections. During the process of shutting down invading illnesses, the pancreas may be compromised. If the pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin, the body is unable to regulate glucose levels without insulin injections or insulin pump therapy.
What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
While type 1 diabetes is typically seen in children and young adults, type 2 diabetes is most commonly seen in elderly and overweight adults whose pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to sustain normal glucose levels. Often, with proper diet and exercise or weight loss, type 2 diabetes can be reversed, while failure to control type 2 diabetes can lead to an inability to produce any insulin. At this point, insulin injections or an insulin pump are necessary to regain control of blood sugars. While type 2 diabetes can go away if treated and managed, type 1 is an autoimmune illness that as of yet has no cure.
Can diabetics still have sugar?
Contrary to what you may have heard, he or she will still be able to enjoy the occasional treat and attend birthday parties and other functions where sweets are served. As is the case for anyone, moderation is the key. With consistent testing and close monitoring of blood sugars, along with creating healthy habits, your child can still incorporate desserts into their routine. It’s ideal, however, to limit the amount of added sugars, starchy carbs, and saturated fats in his or her diet, as these foods can make blood sugars more unpredictable and harder to control. Schedule an appointment to speak with a dietician if you are concerned about how to create a healthy meal plan and routine for your family after a type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
SPEAK WITH A NUTRITION SPECIALIST
How does diabetes affect the body?
Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that allows sugar, or glucose, to pass through the membrane of cells, where it is in turn converted into energy the body can use for daily functions and exercise. When not enough insulin is created by the body or injected into it via shots or an insulin pump, the body is unable to use glucose to produce energy, resulting in an accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream, which can lead to serious complications. When controlled, type 1 diabetes does not prevent one from living a full and healthy life, although it is a disease that requires daily monitoring and routine care. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to the following:
Slow Wound Healing
Nephropathy + Kidney Disease
Retinopathy + Vision Loss
Neuropathy + Nerve Damage
Increased Risk for Stroke + Heart Attack
Gum Disease + Cavities
Increased Risk of Infection
Increased Risk of Miscarriage or Birth Defects During Pregnancy
Increased Risk of High Blood Pressure
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes will present with signs and symptoms that can indicate a common illness or infection but will become progressively worse until blood glucose levels are controlled. Some of the most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
Once your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you will have to monitor his or her blood sugar throughout the day to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). When blood sugars are too high or too low, the body is unable to function properly. Over time, this can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other organs.
What are the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar?
Common symptoms of low blood sugar include:
Sudden or Severe Weakness or Fatigue
Confusion or Trouble Concentrating
Anxiety or Restlessness
Sudden or Severe Hunger or Thirst
Unsteadiness or Balance Problems
Seizure or Unconsciousness
What are the signs and symptoms of high blood sugar?
Common signs and symptoms of high blood sugar include:
How is diabetes treated?
While there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, it can be treated with insulin therapy and by monitoring and controlling blood sugars. Your child’s endocrinologist will also work with you to create a routine that aligns with your diet and lifestyle to obtain optimal blood sugar levels. Choosing to replace high carb foods with low carbs snacks and meals can help prevent high blood sugar spikes, while creating and sticking to a nutrition and exercise routine can allow one to maintain more stable and predictable blood glucose levels.
Latest diabetes technology
Advances in diabetes treatment and technology are allowing type 1 diabetics to live longer, healthier, happier lives. From insulin pumps that allow diabetics the option of foregoing daily injections to blood glucose monitors that provide round the clock support and can alert diabetics and their loved ones of high and low blood sugars, there are a variety of devices to consider looking into. Many insurance companies will also cover a portion of the cost of these supplies.
Insulin pump therapy is becoming more and more popular with diabetics who prefer not to contend with multiple daily injections. For parents of young children, insulin pumps can be more convenient, since little ones may be able to provide their own insulin doses through a pump but not through an injection.
Like insulin pumps, insulin pods provide diabetics with the option of administering insulin through a means other than daily injections. Unlike insulin pumps, however, insulin pods do not include wires and tubing that can become a nuisance for some. For children who like to play and are more prone to accidents and falls, insulin pods also offer added protection from malfunctions and tubing occlusions.
Continuous Glucose Monitors
One of the biggest advances in diabetes technology is the continuous glucose monitor, or CGMs. Several CGMs are available on the market, but the most popular are the Medtronic Guardian sensor and the Dexcom CGM system. These systems allow the wearer to view trends in glucose levels after meals and at certain times of day in order to understand how certain foods are processed by the body, which allows one to tweak insulin dosage and delivery rates. CGMs also allow your endocrinologist to have a better idea of when your body tends to require more insulin. This is helpful to know, since this can vary from person to person depending on height, size, age, exercise routines, and more.
Medtronic 670G Closed Loop Insulin Pump System
Medtronic’s 670G combines insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring technology to create a closed loop insulin pump system that corrects high blood sugars based on CGM readings. The 670G was the first of its kind approved by the FDA as effective in treating type 1 diabetes.
How do I talk to my child’s school about medical treatment?
If your child attends daycare of school during the day, it’s important to educate their babysitters, educators, and school personnel on the best way to handle emergencies and how to treat low and high blood sugar. If your child wears an insulin pump, it’s also important to leave instructions on how to remove or disconnect their insulin pump during low blood sugar episodes. Speak with teachers, principals, and nurses on the best way to help care for your child, and if necessary, have his or her endocrinologist provide instructions on proper emergency medical procedures for type 1 diabetics.
Resources for parents of type 1 diabetics
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, also known as JDRF, offers resources for diabetics and parents of type 1 diabetics while also playing an active role in raising funds for research and advocacy initiatives. In 2017 alone, JDRF raised more than $339 million dollars for juvenile diabetes research. As a leader in diabetic advocacy and research initiatives, JDRF has also been instrumental in the development of the artificial pancreas, glucose control technologies, immunotherapies, prevention initiatives, beta cell regeneration, and other state-of-the-art campaigns that bring us one step closer to a cure.
TypeOneNation was created by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as a way to create community and support for type 1 diabetics and parents of T1Ds. Join the conversation on the public forum to learn more about tips and tricks for living with type 1, or ask other members questions regarding diet, lifestyle, medical equipment, and more. Parents can also find resources such as an up-to-date guide on the latest in insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor system technology, how to speak with your child’s healthcare professionals regarding their diagnosis, how to find health insurance that covers diabetes medications and supplies, and more.
American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association offers an abundance of information for parents of children with type 1 diabetes, including resources on where to find low-carb recipes, news on the latest in diabetes technology and trends, how to create an emergency preparedness kit and plan, and more. The American Diabetes Association also publishes cookbooks, magazines, and other print materials for diabetics.