Diabetes In Children: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Of course, we would do anything to ensure our children are safe, happy, and healthy. However, diabetes in children can be challenging to navigate, especially when you, as a parent, do not deal with this disease. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for diabetes in children is crucial for early detection and effective management.

Diabetes In Children

Diabetes, a chronic condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, is not limited to adults; it can also affect children. Here at Wake Forest Pediatrics, we have put together a guide that provides insight into diabetes in children and empowers parents to navigate this condition.

Types Of Diabetes In Children

There are two primary types of diabetes that can affect children: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

This autoimmune condition occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Children with Type 1 diabetes require insulin injections for the rest of their lives.

Type 2 Diabetes

This form of diabetes is often associated with lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of physical activity. While it is more common in adults, the incidence of Type 2 in children is rising, particularly in those with a family history of the condition. According to the ADA, about 352,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have been diagnosed with diabetes.


Recognizing the signs of diabetes is essential for early intervention. Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent Urination: Children with diabetes may urinate more frequently than usual, leading to increased thirst.
  • Excessive Thirst: Constant thirst, even after drinking fluids, is a common symptom of elevated blood sugar levels.
  • Weight Loss: Despite an increased appetite, children with diabetes may experience unexplained weight loss.
  • Fatigue: Persistent fatigue and irritability can be indicators of diabetes.
  • Blurred Vision: Elevated blood sugar levels can affect the eyes, leading to blurred vision.
  • Slow Healing: Wounds, cuts, or infections may take longer to heal in children with diabetes.


The causes of diabetes in children vary depending on the type of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

The exact cause of Type 1 diabetes is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Viral infections and certain autoimmune responses may trigger the onset of Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Lifestyle factors play a significant role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. Poor diet, lack of physical activity, and genetic predisposition can contribute to insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels.

Diagnosis And Testing

If diabetes is suspected in a child, healthcare providers may conduct several tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests include:

  • Fasting Blood Sugar Test: This test measures blood sugar levels after an overnight fast.
  • A1c Test: Also known as glycated hemoglobin, this test provides an average of blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): This test involves fasting followed by the consumption of a glucose solution, with blood sugar levels measured periodically.

Treatment Options

Diabetes requires a holistic approach involving lifestyle modifications, medication, and regular monitoring.

Insulin Therapy

Children with Type 1 diabetes require insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump to regulate blood sugar levels. The goal is to mimic the natural insulin production that their bodies lack.

Medication For Type 2 Diabetes

In cases of Type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes are crucial. This may include a balanced diet, increased physical activity, and sometimes oral medications or insulin if necessary.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)

CGM devices track blood sugar levels throughout the day, providing real-time data to help parents and healthcare providers make informed decisions about insulin doses and lifestyle adjustments.

Emotional And Psychological Support

Living with diabetes can be challenging for children and their families. Providing emotional and psychological support is crucial to help children cope with the demands of diabetes management. Encourage open communication, address any concerns or fears, and involve the child in their care to promote a sense of control.

Prevention Strategies

While Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, Type 2 diabetes in children is often associated with lifestyle factors. Implementing preventive measures includes:

  • Encouraging a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Promoting regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limiting sugary snacks and beverages.
  • Regular health check-ups to monitor blood sugar levels.

Understanding diabetes in children is essential for early detection and effective management. Our pediatricians are board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a leader in pediatric care, our practice is involved in national and statewide projects that help to improve the healthcare of all children. For more information or to request an appointment, give us a call at 919-556-4779.

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