Diabetes (Type 1)

Also known as: Juvenile diabetes, insulin-dependent diabetes

What is type 1 diabetes?

Normally, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin which enables the sugar in the blood to move into the body’s cells to provide energy. In children with type 1 diabetes, the child’s body no longer produces insulin. While it generally occurs around the time of puberty it can occur much earlier.

What causes type 1 diabetes? 

While the exact cause is unclear, in most children it appears that the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells which normally produce insulin (islet cells). Environmental (certain viruses, perhaps early infant cow milk diet) and genetic factors (certain genes increase risk) appear to play a role in its development. Children at increased risk also include those with a family history of diabetes, and who are non-Hispanic white.

What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

Symptoms usually develop quickly over a few weeks. Increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger, weight loss without cause, fatigue, irritability and mood changes, weakness, blurred vision, foul breath and yeast infections in girls are common. Over time, type 1 diabetes can lead to heart, vision, kidney, bone, skin and neurological complications.

What are type 1 diabetes care options?

The diagnosis and management of diabetes is stressful for child and family. Treatment is lifelong and carried out by a multidisciplinary team involving endocrinologists, diabetes nurse educators, registered nutritionists, and medical social workers. It includes more than just monitoring a child's blood sugar daily, encouraging  eating regular healthy meals, exercising on a regular basis, taking insulin as directed by the healthcare team and preventing short term (like a too low-hypoglycemia, or too high-hyperglycemia, blood sugars) and long- term complications. It also needs to address physical, psychosocial and emotional needs, particularly as the child matures into being an adolescent/young adult. 

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 10/25/2017 11:31:49 AM

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Dr. Pedro Pagán is employed by Pediatric Specialists of America (PSA), the physician-led multi-specialty group practice of Nicklaus Children's Health System. He is a pediatric endocrinologist within the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital and sees patients at Nicklaus Children's Hospital and the Nicklaus Children's Aventura Care Center.