Aetna
Womens Health
.
Children's Health Home
Womens Health Home
.
.
.
.
.
.
Childrens Health
.
Aetna Home
.
Contact Us
.
Help
.
gifAWH_print
.
What Is Diabetes?

The National Institutes Of Health's "National Diabetes Education Program"

Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high levels of blood glucose (sugar) resulting from defects in how the body makes insulin, uses insulin or both.

Diabetes is associated with serious complications and premature death, but timely diagnosis and treatment of diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of long-term complications (damage to the cardiovascular system, kidneys, eyes, nerves, blood vessels, skin, gums, and teeth). New management strategies are helping children with diabetes live long and healthy lives.

Type 1 diabetes in U.S. children and adolescents is increasing and more new cases of type 2 diabetes are being reported in young people.

What Are The Types Of Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, but is the leading cause of diabetes in children of all ages. Type 1 accounts for almost all diabetes in children younger than 10.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas that help regulate blood glucose levels.

  • Symptoms. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period of time. They include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss and blurred vision. Children may also feel very tired.

    As insulin deficiency worsens, ketoacids (formed from the breakdown of fat) build up in the blood and are excreted in the urine and breath. They cause the feeling of shortness of breath and abdominal pain, vomiting and worsening dehydration. If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, the child or teen with type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening coma. Often, children with vomiting are mistakenly diagnosed as having gastroenteritis. New-onset diabetes differs from a GI infection by the frequent urination that accompanies continued vomiting, as opposed to decreased urination due to dehydration if the vomiting is caused by a GI "bug."


  • Risk factors. A combination of genetic and environmental factors put people at increased risk for type 1 diabetes. Researchers are working to identify these factors and stop the autoimmune process that destroys the pancreas.


  • Co-existing diseases. Autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease and autoimmune thyroiditis are associated with type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes used to be found mainly in adults who were overweight and older than 40. Now, as more children and adolescents in the United States become overweight or obese and inactive, type 2 diabetes is occurring more often in young people ages 10 or older. Most children and adolescents diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are also insulin resistant, and have a family history of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is more common in certain racial and ethnic groups such as African Americans, American Indians, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and some Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

  • Symptoms. Some children or adolescents with type 2 diabetes may show no symptoms at all. In others, symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes. A youth may feel very tired, thirsty, or nauseated and have to urinate often. Other symptoms may include weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slow healing of wounds or sores. Some youth may present with vaginal yeast infection or burning on urination due to yeast infection. Some may have extreme elevation of the blood glucose level associated with severe dehydration and coma. Because symptoms are varied, it is important for health care providers to identify and test youth who are at high risk for the disease.


  • Risk Factors. Being overweight, having a family member who has type 2 diabetes, being a member of a high-risk ethnic group, having signs of insulin resistance and maternal gestational diabetes mellitus (a form of diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy) are risk factors for the disease.
Last updated March 19, 2013




.