Diabetes mellitus in children

In childhood, diabetes is a rare occurrence, however, this pathology is found even in newborns. The most critical for the development of diabetes in infants is the age from 5 to 12 years, since the pancreas of children in this age period is in the process of formation, and the process of insulin production has not yet been established.

Diabetes in children: types and causes of the disease

Diabetes mellitus is usually divided into 2 types:

  • Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent).

It is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) against the background of absolute insulin deficiency associated with the destruction of pancreatic cells producing this hormone.

  • Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent)

It is caused by chronic hyperglycemia against the background of relative insulin deficiency caused by a decrease in the sensitivity of tissues to the action of this hormone. Non-insulin-dependent diabetes in children is much less common than non-insulin-dependent.

The development of pathology in children can be associated with various factors, the main of which are:

  • Heredity.

Diabetes mellitus is often found among babies whose relatives suffered from this disease.

  • Viral infections.

In viral diseases (such as viral hepatitis, mumps, rubella, chickenpox), a violation of the pancreas. The development of diabetes in such cases is possible only in children with a burden of heredity, and is caused by the destruction of insulin by the cells of the immune system.  

Frequent colds can also contribute to the development of diabetes in a child: with constant colds, the immune system wears out, continuing to produce antiviral antibodies even during recovery, destroying healthy cells. In this case, there is a violation of the pancreas and a decrease in insulin production.

  • Sedentary lifestyle.

Lack of physical activity is one of the main reasons for the appearance of excess weight, as a result of which there is a disruption of the cells responsible for the production of insulin.

  • Binge eating.

Excessive consumption of food (especially such easily digestible carbohydrate products as sugar, chocolate, sweet flour products and carbonated drinks) contributes to the development of obesity and an increase in the load on the pancreas with subsequent depletion of insulin cells and the gradual cessation of its production.

Diabetes mellitus: the main symptoms

Diabetes mellitus that occurs in childhood, by the nature of the manifestations, is similar to the disease in adults, but in children the disease is much more severe.

The main symptoms of diabetes in children include:

  • dry mouth and sweltering thirst;
  • increased appetite along with weight loss;
  • frequent urination
  • urinary incontinence;
  • itching in the area of ​​the urethra after emptying the bladder;
  • secretion of sticky urine;
  • a sharp decrease in vision;
  • persistent headaches;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • the appearance of a blush, redness on the face (in the cheeks, eyebrows, forehead and chin);
  • dry skin;
  • the occurrence of skin itching and pustular formations on the skin;
  • weakness, excessive fatigue, irritability.

The appearance in a child of symptoms reminiscent of the manifestations of diabetes requires immediate consultation with a pediatric endocrinologist, who will prescribe everything necessary for an accurate diagnosis of the examination. 

Emergency conditions for diabetes

Diabetes in children develops rapidly, with the possibility of developing life-threatening complications such as:

  • Hypoglycemia.

It occurs against the background of a sharp decrease in blood sugar, which can be caused by various factors (insulin overdose, stress, poor diet, etc.). The precursors of hypoglycemic coma are usually sweating, headache, bouts of severe hunger, weakness, tremor of the extremities. Without the timely provision of therapeutic care, the patient develops convulsions, accompanied by nervous excitement and depression of consciousness. 

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis.

This condition is preceded by a ketoacidotic coma. Typical manifestations of ketoacidosis are increasing weakness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath; while the child has a smell of acetone from the mouth.

  • Ketoacidotic coma.

It is caused by a complete loss of consciousness, lowering blood pressure, rapid and weak heartbeat, uneven breathing and the cessation of urine into the bladder (anuria).

In some cases, diabetes in children turns into hyperosmolar or lactic acidic coma.

Diabetes Treatment Methods

To date, methods that would completely cure children of diabetes mellitus do not exist. The main goal of therapy is the normalization of metabolic processes in the body for the longest possible time.

Therapeutic activities include:

  • adjustment of the regimen and diet;
  • drug treatment with the use of insulin preparations and angioprotectors (if necessary, the use of hepatotropic and choleretic drugs);
  • vitamin therapy.

In severe cases, the child may need a partial or complete pancreas transplant.

Preventative measures

Preventive measures come down to improving the quality of nutrition and determining the risk group.

Babies who are breast-fed are most prone to developing transient diabetes. This is due to the content of cow’s milk protein in artificial mixtures, which has an adverse effect on the pancreas. Therefore, feeding the baby with breast milk is an important factor that can significantly minimize the risk of the disease.

Older children need a balanced and varied diet with moderate intake of fats and carbohydrates.

Babies with metabolic disorders, obesity, as well as children with a genetic predisposition to diabetes, require constant monitoring by an endocrinologist and undergo preventive medical examinations twice a year.

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