Signs of Diabetes in Toddlers – Symptoms to Look For

child with diabetesDiabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases of childhood in USA. It is estimated that 1 in every 400-600 children and adolescents have Diabetes. If your toddler has developed Diabetes, it is most certainly Type I Diabetes.

Type I Diabetes

Type I Diabetes generally occurs in children, adolescents and young adults, hence also referred to as juvenile diabetes. Type I Diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which body stops producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone released from the ? cells of Pancreas, and plays a crucial role in the intermediary metabolism of glucose. Main functions of insulin in the body are;

  • It increases uptake of glucose in the body cells.
  • It stimulates the conversion of glucose to glycogen in liver.
  • It inhibits the breakdown of fat into fatty acids and glycerol.
  • It helps in the development of proteins in the muscles.

In the absence of insulin, body cells cannot take in glucose, the concentration of glucose in the blood increases. Meanwhile, inside the cells, low glucose concentrations triggers release of another hormones, glucagon, adrenaline, cortisol, and growth hormone. These hormones will act in restoring the perceived decrease of glucose in the body by enabling breakdown of glycogen to glucose, breakdown of fat into fatty acids and glycerol, and conversion of muscle proteins to glucose.

The combined effect of all these result in an increased concentration of glucose and ketones in body.

Warning signals for Diabetes in toddlers

You must immediately rush to your doctor, if you see one of these symptoms in your toddler,

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Difficulty in breathing or accelerated breathing
  • Fruity, sweet breath

Symptoms due to Insulin deficiency in toddlers

As a result of insulin deficiency, ketones are produced. Ketones are used as fuel by the muscle, heart, kidney and brain, but an excess of ketone in the body brings about very unpleasant side effects. Nausea and vomiting are the first symptoms when an increase in the ketones occurs inside the body.

There are two types of ketones in the body, ? hydroxyl butyrate and acetoacetate. As their concentration in the body increases the body tries to eliminate them through urine, or through acetone vapors which are exhaled via lungs imparting the fruity odor to breath. The child will breathe faster as the body tries to exhale as much as acetone possible.

Too many ketones make the blood acidic, a condition known as ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis causes abdominal pain and tenderness. The increases frequency of urination, if not compensated with water intake, may make the toddler dehydrated and result in unconsciousness and coma.

Symptoms due to increased blood glucose in toddlers

An increased glucose in the urine is identified by;

  • Needing to go the toilet more frequently, even at night
  • Increased volume of urine
  • Fluid loss due to increased urination causes an increase in thirst and the mouth becomes dry. The skin and the mucous membrane also become very dry.
  • Loss of fluid causes lack of energy.
  • There is an increase in weight loss, as the muscle proteins are breaking down to form glucose in absence of insulin. The growth of the toddler is affected.
  • Blurred eyesight as a result of difference in concentration of glucose in the lens and in the blood cells. If the glucose is more in the more in the lens, it will absorb more water and as a result the refractivity of the lens will change causing blurred vision.
  • The increased levels of glucose in brain may bring about a low IQ and irritable behavior in toddler.

Type I Diabetes and your toddler

It becomes difficult for the parent to assess whether their child’s bad temper is due to low or high blood glucose or just a childhood tantrum. The restrictions placed on a diabetic child due to insulin injections, meal times and monitoring of blood glucose when compared with other normal children are disabling for the child and stressful for the parent.

It is difficult to take care of a child as it is, but if there is additional burden of Diabetes as well, the responsibility of the parent in blood glucose monitoring, managing injections, meal planning along with all other adjustments of daily life increases manifold.

Pooja S. Banerjee is a pharmacist by profession, and an academician and researcher! Her passion for writing has made her foray into the world of content and medical writing!

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