India is home to a whopping 69.2 million people suffering from diabetes and is anticipated to rise to as much as 123.4 million by 2040. The major point of concern is that it is not just a burden for older adults in the country. As per data, an estimated 97700 children in India suffer from Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus which is one of the most common pediatric endocrine illnesses. It is essential to be aware of the facts about juvenile diabetes. The parents must be extra careful in taking measures to prevent their children fall prey to a chronic condition like this.
Type 1 Diabetes, also known as juvenile Diabetes typically occurs among those in their adolescence when the immune system damages beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. As body insulin is the hormone primarily responsible for moving sugar or glucose into the body tissues, damage to beta cells cuts off that process. As the sugar does not move into cells due to the absence of insulin, it gets accumulated in the blood thereby causing the cells to starve. This results in high blood sugar that can eventually cause dehydration, weight loss, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and damage to the body. The body starts losing water due to excessive urination and there is a generation of ketones, a chemical in the body that can result in ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition if not treated promptly. It can affect eyes, kidneys, and heart and can cause atherosclerosis that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Juvenile Diabetes and its causes
While genes play a vital role, the exact cause of Type 1 Diabetes is not known. However, it is associated with a virus that directs the immune system to destroy the beta cells and those suffering from diabetes display signs of an attack known as autoantibodies. Additionally, it can occur among those with other autoimmune diseases like Grave’s diseases or vitiligo.
Signs to watch out
Although the symptoms are mostly subtle, they can become severe as well. The signs include heavy thirst, increased hunger after eating, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting, pain in your belly, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss despite eating adequately, fatigue, weakness and tiredness, blurred vision, heavy, laboured breathing, infections and rashes in skin, urinary tract or vagina, shaking and confusion, rapid breathing, fruity smell in the breath, belly pain and rare loss of consciousness.
Lifestyle medication can help
Although at present there is no way of preventing juvenile diabetes, there are ways of leading a healthy life by keeping blood sugar in check. It is mandatory to have a regular check on the blood sugar levels, adjust insulin, maintain a proper diet and regular exercise. Exercise plays a prominent role in treating Type 1 Diabetes. It is also important to balance the insulin dose and the food that one consumes with simple physical activities including the daily tasks around the house. Also, an eye must be kept to check if the blood sugar level is dropping too low and that should be avoided. A snack with carb helps in doing so.
What juvenile diabetes can lead to in the long run?
If juvenile diabetes is not dealt with appropriately, it may lead to several other life-threatening conditions in later life. Here are some of them that one must know.
- Retinopathy: Although this does not occur commonly before puberty, those with juvenile diabetes have a greater risk of developing this retina disorder when they get into their adulthood.
- Kidney damage: Those with type 1 diabetes commonly suffer from a condition called nephropathy. It generally shows up 15 to 25 years after the onset of diabetes and can result in several serious problems like kidney failure and heart disease.
Other consequent disorders include poor blood circulation and nerve damage.
With adequate monitoring, a healthy lifestyle and an appropriate diet, juvenile diabetes can be controlled and well-maintained to improve the quality of life of children suffering from this chronic condition.
(Dr Harish Kumar, Consultant – Paediatrics & Paediatric Intensive Care, Aster CMI Hospital. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)