The World Health Organization reports a global surge in diabetes cases, with children, in particular, facing heightened risks.
The escalation of pediatric diabetes encompasses both Type 1 and Type 2. According to some studies, the incidence of young people with Type 1 diabetes is predicted to triple, while those with Type 2 diabetes will likely quadruple by 2050.
In the UAE, this worrying trend persists, with diabetes rates rapidly increasing among both adults and the pediatric population. Health experts are now sounding the alarm, emphasizing the need for prompt action and intervention to protect future generations.
What Is Pediatric Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus (diabetes) affects both children and adults, causing higher-than-normal blood sugar levels (glucose). While the condition is similar across age groups, the complications and treatment approaches for children can be distinct, often requiring more precise and tailored strategies.
The glucose in our food is absorbed into the bloodstream, serving as our primary energy source. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, converts glucose into energy and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
When we consume carbohydrate-rich foods, our digestive system breaks them down into sugar, which then raises our blood sugar levels. Insulin produced by the pancreas is essential in reducing these levels by absorbing blood sugar for energy or storage.
However, when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or the body cannot utilize insulin effectively (Type 2 diabetes), blood sugar levels remain unregulated, leading to an excess of sugar (glucose) in the blood and ultimately resulting in diabetes.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes In Children
Type 1 diabetes is the most prevalent form in children and ranks as the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting 1 in 350 children by age 18. The incidence rate has recently begun to rise, especially in children under 5 years old.
While Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age in children, it is more frequently observed between the ages of 4 and 6 or between 10 and 14 years.
Conversely, Type 2 diabetes, once a rarity in children, has experienced a steady increase in tandem with the growing prevalence of childhood obesity. Typically, it emerges after puberty, with the highest incidence rate between the ages of 10 and 19 years.
The precise cause of Type 1 diabetes in both adults and children remains unknown. However, several risk factors have been identified, such as:
- Family history – A parent or sibling with Type 1 diabetes significantly increases the risk.
- Genetics – Specific genes are associated with a heightened risk of Type 1 diabetes.
- Race – Type 1 diabetes is more common among white children compared to other racial groups.
- Vitamin D deficiency – An increase in this deficiency has been linked to Type 1 diabetes.
- Early exposure to cow’s milk.
In contrast, for Type 2 diabetes in children, factors like family history, genetics, environmental influences, physical inactivity, and excess fat, particularly around the abdomen, play crucial roles.
- Children aged 10 or older exhibiting at least one of these risk factors for Type 2 diabetes:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a family history of Type 2 diabetes
- Having started puberty
- Belonging to a non-white racial group
- Displaying signs of insulin resistance, such as darkened skin patches on the neck or armpits are advised to undergo diabetes screening for early diagnosis and intervention.
Pediatric diabetes specialists attribute the rise in diabetes cases to modern trends, including excessive junk food consumption, which can lead to obesity and other health issues, and children’s increased screen time, which discourages physical activity.
In children with Type 1 diabetes, common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Fruity breath odor
- Poor wound healing
In children with Type 2 diabetes, common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Darkened areas of skin, particularly around the neck or in the armpits
- Unintended weight loss (though more common in Type 1 diabetes)
- Frequent infections
Children with Type 1 diabetes face various complications, including heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, and osteoporosis.
On the other hand, complications associated with Type 2 diabetes in children encompass high cholesterol, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, nerve damage, kidney and eye disease, blindness, cardiac complications, renal failure, and vision impairment.
Early Intervention And Prevention With GluCare
Early detection of diabetes is essential to prevent severe long-term health complications in children, which can cause havoc and psychological distress during their teenage and adult years.
At GluCare, our diabetes clinic is staffed with experienced pediatric endocrinologists who specialize in the comprehensive diagnosis, treatment, and management of complex hormonal issues, including diabetes. We support your child on their diabetes management journey by creating a personalized plan encompassing nutrition, physical activity, and medication.
Furthermore, by incorporating AI and remote monitoring technologies into our diabetes management program, we can offer your child the highest quality of support and real-time guidance 24/7. This approach makes it easier for them to adopt healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes, paving the way for a brighter future.
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