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Handling diabetes in children

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
20 November 2021   |   3:08 am
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in children and globally represents a public health challenge.


Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in children and globally represents a public health challenge.

Studies show that the estimated global population of children aged zero to 14 years of age was 1.9 billion in 2017, out of which 586,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, with an estimated 79.000 new cases diagnosed each year. It is said that worldwide, the prevalence among the youths is estimated to triple in 2050.

According to a medical practitioner, Dr. Oseyi Okaiwele, it is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose, or sugar, get into your cells to give them energy and without it, too much sugar stays in the blood. The common type of diabetes in children and teens is type one, also called juvenile diabetes.

However, children have a higher risk of type two, diabetes if they are overweight, are obese or have a family history of diabetes. Although the exact cause of type one diabetes is unknown, the body’s immune system, which is supposed to fight harmful bacteria and viruses, mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells which are called islet, in the pancreas.

Some of its symptoms in children include; increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unintentional weight loss, fatigue and behaviour changes.

On its risk factors in children, Okaiwele said it includes, the family history, which is anyone with a parent, or siblings with type one diabetes, has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition.

Genetically, certain genes indicate an increased risk of type one diabetes; also exposure to certain viruses may trigger the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells. When there are complications from heart and blood vessel disease, diabetes increases a child’s risk of developing conditions such as narrowed blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke later in life.

Also, excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish a child’s nerves and cause severe damage. Nerve damage usually happens gradually over a long period of time. It could also lead to kidney damage, which are like numerous tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from a child’s blood.

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, which may lead to vision problems. It could also lead to lower than normal bone mineral density, increasing a child’s risk of osteoporosis as an adult.

“Most importantly, you can help the child prevent complications in type one diabetes by helping him or her maintain good blood sugar control as much as possible, teach your child the importance of eating a healthy diet and participating in regular physical activity.

“The parent should also schedule regular visits with the doctor for frequent checks and examinations to avoid further complications.”

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