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Pediatric Diabetes

Diabetes is a lifelong condition in which the body has trouble using a sugar called glucose for energy. Children with diabetes either do not make enough insulin needed to process food (type 1 diabetes) or they are resistant to insulin (type 2 diabetes).

The basics of diabetes

When is the typical onset?

Type 1 diabetes

Most children with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. It accounts for more than 80 percent of diabetes cases diagnosed before 19 years of age.

Type 2 diabetes

Most adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Risk increases if you are age 40+, overweight or have a family history. There has been a rise in type 2 diabetes among adolescents, though it is less common in children under age 10.

How is the body affected?

Type 1 diabetes

The pancreas stops making insulin. Everyone needs insulin to survive. It allows your body to use the sugar (glucose) that is found in food for energy. Without insulin, the sugar level in the blood gets too high.

Type 2 diabetes

The body still produces insulin but it cannot transport as much sugar into the cells. It becomes unable to keep sugar in the blood within a normal range.

How is it managed?

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is managed by checking a child's blood sugar several times per day and giving, at minimum, four insulin injections daily. The diabetes team at Gundersen uses an individualized approach to educate the child, and other family members, on how to perform all the tasks needed to properly manage their diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is managed by making lifestyle changes (e.g. regular exercise, healthy diet and monitoring blood glucose levels) and/or taking medication.

What do type 1 and type 2 diabetes have in common?

People with both kinds of diabetes:

  • experience many of the same symptoms.
  • need to closely monitor the amount of sugar in their blood.
  • Cannot be cured but can manage the disease and live long and productive lives.
  • Should see their diabetes care team at least once every three months.

Symptoms

When the pancreas stops making insulin, the body's cells do not receive enough energy. Your child may feel or have:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • New overnight urinary accidents
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tiredness for no obvious reason
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea, vomiting and belly pain
  • Muscle cramps

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your child's primary care provider for an evaluation, or go to the nearest urgent care/emergency department.

Diagnosis

If you or your healthcare provider suspect type 1 diabetes, your child's provider will order laboratory tests, including blood and urine tests, to diagnose diabetes. If these tests confirm diabetes, treatment must begin immediately.

Treatment

Currently there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, he/she will require a brief hospital stay until blood sugars are controlled and a treatment plan is created. Your child will need to take several insulin injections per day to replace the insulin that their body no longer makes on its own.

The treatment plan will be determined by your child's diabetes team, and will include:

  • Carbohydrate counting and attention to meal planning
  • Blood sugar testing
  • How to administer an insulin injection
  • A plan for exercise and play
  • Learning how to problem solve with blood sugars to keep diabetes under control
  • Working with your child's school and other caregivers to manage diabetes

Resources

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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