Teens With Diabetes: Issues for Parents - Topic Overview
The teen years may be the most difficult time for a young
diabetes and his or her parents. The normal cycle of
rapid growth spurts and periods of slow growth along with the normal teenager
behaviors of going to bed late, sleeping late, and eating meals at varying
times makes it hard to keep a teenager's blood sugar level consistently
within his or her target range.
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our July/August 2012 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, about the link between diabetes and poor sleep.
Q: I have diabetes, and I'm not sleeping well. Are the two related, and what can I do?
A: Yes, people with diabetes often have reduced sleep quality and quantity. Sleep apnea, medications, lack of exercise, and abnormal glucose and hormone...
Your teenager may be very mature and assume appropriate
responsibility for his or her diabetes care. If so, your job as a parent of
providing appropriate supervision will be relatively easy. On the other hand,
teenager rebellion is normal. Your teen who has diabetes may rebel by
lashing out at you for the ups and downs of the disease. Try to be empathetic, and imagine the feelings of fear, sadness, anger, and even guilt your teen may be feeling.
Teenagers, especially girls, may try to control their weight by
going on fad diets, vomiting after meals, or eating very little food. Because
insulin can cause a person to gain weight, a teen also may skip doses in
an effort to lose weight. This can be dangerous and may lead to high or low
blood sugar emergencies or to an
You can do some things that may be helpful and may reduce your tendency to nag
Keep the disease in perspective—as only one
part of a person's life. Encourage your teen to be as active as he or she
would like to be in sports and other healthy activities.
Don't back off completely, but do require that your teenager assume total
responsibility for his or her diabetes care. Accept the fact that ultimately it
is up to your teen to take control of his or her care. Be there to
support and guide. If you have encouraged your teen to assume more and
more responsibility in the past and have given appropriate guidance and
supervision, this transition of responsibility will be much
Allow your teenager to meet with his or her diabetes
health professional alone. This will encourage your teen to be highly
involved in his or her care. A registered dietitian can help your teenager build a healthy meal plan.
Don't overreact to high blood sugar
levels. Everyone with diabetes has them from time to time. Praise your
teenager for checking his or her blood sugar level and problem-solve ways to
handle it effectively.
Use a flexible insulin dosing schedule
with a combination of long-acting and rapid-acting insulins. This allows
greater flexibility for those times when he or she sleeps late, attends
parties, or alters the meal schedule.
Use an insulin pump instead
of multiple injections. Some young people really like using the insulin pump
because it is a less obvious way of giving their insulin injections. If
rapid-acting insulin is used with meals, the pump makes it convenient to give
an extra dose if needed.
Identify a safety support system.
Because low blood sugar levels are likely to occur, especially if your
teenager is keeping blood sugar levels tightly within a target range, he or
she needs to have at least one friend who knows what to do in case of an
emergency. Help your teenager identify friends who can be a backup for
safety. Discuss who else needs to know and what they need to know.
Talk with a doctor if you have serious concerns about
your teenager who has diabetes.
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Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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