Type 1 Diabetes: Children Living With the Disease - What Happens
Every child experiences
type 1 diabetes differently.
The negative effects of
diabetes are caused by blood sugar levels that are above or below a
Low blood sugar
Very low blood sugar is a
frightening experience for you and your child. But if low blood sugar levels
are treated quickly and appropriately, your child should have no lasting
Young children cannot recognize low blood sugar symptoms
as well as adults can, which puts them at risk for low blood sugar emergencies.
Children who develop
hypoglycemia unawareness, which is the inability to recognize early symptoms of low blood sugar until they become severe, or who are trying to keep their
blood sugar levels tightly within a target range are also at risk for low blood
Make sure your child's caregivers, such as
school nurses, know:
Let your doctor know if your child is having frequent
episodes of low blood sugar. You can use this form(What is a PDF document?) to keep a record of your child's very high or very low blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar
Very high blood sugar puts your
child at risk for
diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening emergency.
Skipping insulin injections, stress, illness, injury, and puberty can trigger high blood sugar. Because
blood sugar levels usually rise slowly, you can treat symptoms early and, most
often, prevent diabetic ketoacidosis.
High blood sugar can also
- Adjustment of the body to high levels. For example, if your
child's blood sugar level is consistently at 250 milligrams per deciliter
(mg/dL) and suddenly drops to 100 mg/dL, you or your child may think this level
is too low when it is really not. Your child may even have symptoms of low
blood sugar at target blood sugar levels.
- Delayed growth and maturity. If your child has high blood sugar
levels over a long period of time, he or she may grow and mature more slowly.
During puberty, this can delay normal sexual development and the onset of
menstruation. And your child may not gain weight properly if he or she doesn't have enough insulin.
- Complications from the disease (eye, kidney, heart,
blood vessel, and nerve disease). But if their blood sugar levels are
persistently high, children are more likely to show early signs of these
problems, particularly eye and kidney disease. Also, high blood
sugar levels during childhood and adolescence put your child at risk for these
diseases in early adulthood.
What can be done?
The best way to help your child
with type 1 diabetes live a long and healthy life is to keep his or her blood
sugar levels within a target range. Work with your
child's doctor, and monitor blood sugar levels frequently.