Today is a special day. On the one hand, India celebrates Children’s Day as a reminder of the rights of children. On the other, millions of people around the world come together on World Diabetes Day to raise awareness about this disease.
With an objective of combining these powerful agendas, I decided to catch up with an expert to discuss ‘Diabetes and Children’. With diabetes growing at a shocking rate in children, there are several questions unanswered; either because we are afraid to ask or it has not affected us personally, as yet. Below is an interview with Dr. Mohammed Zaheeruddin, Specialist Pediatrician at Medeor 24X7 Hospital, Dubai where we hope to answer these questions and more.
A: No. A pregnancy condition like gestational diabetes is not hereditary. Besides, it is fairly common in expecting mothers and has no co-relation whatsoever with the child developing diabetes in the future.
Q: Family history of diabetes, what exactly does this mean?
A: It implies an incidence of diabetes in the immediate parents and/or grandparents on either side. However, the likelihood of a child developing diabetes is higher if there is a family history of this condition on the paternal side.
Q: In case of a family history, how soon should I start getting my child/ren screened?
A: Screening for diabetes in children is not an universal recommendation, unless the child exhibits specific symptoms. However, as a parent if you see yourself complaining that the child does not put on weight or loses weight despite being a good eater, it should be regarded as a red flag.
Q: Which doctor should we call? A Pediatrician or an Endocrinologist, or both?
A: Both; although the first point of contact is the Pediatrician. If your child’s doctor suspects diabetes, he or she will recommend a screening test. Once the diagnosis is established, the case is referred to a Pediatric Endocrinologist who will further treat and manage the condition.
Q: Do the symptoms of Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes in children differ?
A: Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes is usually diagnosed in children , tweens and teens. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin and this shortage has to be replenished via insulin that is supplied externally.
Type 2 diabetes is considered to be an adult disease, although it is on the rise in children now. In type 2 diabetes, the cell’s in the child’s body become unresponsive to insulin, thus causing a rise of glucose in the bloodstream.
Symptoms are common across both types and include: Polyuria (increased urination), Polydipsia (increased thirst) and Polyphagia (increased appetite).
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening complication of diabetes caused by extremely high-levels of blood sugar in children. Symptoms of DKA include vomiting, abdominal pain, increased thirst and urination as well as a fever.
Q: What does it mean for a child if he/she is diagnosed with diabetes?
A: The diagnosis of diabetes in children can be overwhelming, both physically and mentally. On one hand, the child must take insulin, either via an injection or a pump and on the other; there are feelings of shame and depression to deal with. However, on working closely with a healthcare team comprising a pediatrician, endocrinologist, counselor and child psychologist, there are several ways to manage the situation effectively.
Q: Caring for a diabetic child.
A: Once the parents have been educated about the child’s condition and means to manage it, they need to ensure that the child eats right, in a timely manner and is regular with his/her insulin injections. It is important to inform the school as soon as possible while making sure they have the equipment needed to deal with any kind of emergency.
DKA may well occur after diagnosis and the school nurse should be prepped to recognize the symptoms and provide an insulin injection on the spot, if required.
Q: As a parent/caretaker, is it my fault that my child has diabetes?
A: Absolutely not. Diabetes has now come under a broad category of auto-immune disorders which we have no control over.
Q: To prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes, are there any foods that we should not let our child/ren eat?
A: Once a child is labeled as type 1 diabetic, it is for life. However, childhood obesity is a contributing factor in Type 2 diabetes. Accordingly, restrictions should be imposed on the consumption of fattening foods in early life.
Q: Other ways to cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes?
A: A healthy lifestyle, including a combination of healthy eating and daily exercise.
Q: Does diabetes affect growth and development in any way?
A: If a child with diabetes has good control over his/her blood sugar, growth and development is not compromised in any way. Type 1 diabetes is nothing but a shortage of insulin within the body; and as long as this is provided externally, there will not be any problems.
Medeor 24X7 hospital is located in the Consulates area in Bur Dubai. To know more about Dr. Zaheeruddin and book an appointment with him, click here.