Type 1 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes affecting children and adolescents in Australia. The condition occurs when the body stops producing insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and allows sugar to pass into the cells of the body to produce energy.
Type 1 diabetes is a serious disease that usually develops during childhood or young adulthood. The condition cannot be prevented and can cause a range of short- and long-term health complications. Although most cases occur unexpectedly, your child is more likely to develop type 1 diabetes if other members of the family also have the condition.
Other forms of diabetes include type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes (occurs during pregnancy) and rare types developed as a result of various genetic disorders.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes may be present for a long time before diagnosis or may occur suddenly and include:
- unexpected weight loss
- excessive thirst
- passing more urine than normal and wetting the bed.
If your child also has tummy pain, vomiting, sleepiness and deep breathing this may indicate diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which is a serious complication of untreated diabetes. If you believe your child may have DKA, take them immediately to your nearest hospital for emergency assessment.
How is it diagnosed?
If your doctor believes your child has type 1 diabetes, they will be immediately referred to the nearest emergency department for assessment. A delay in diagnosis can lead to DKA which can develop rapidly and cause death if not treated. DKA requires immediate admission to paediatric intensive care for treatment.
What is the treatment?
Type 1 diabetes needs careful daily management to ensure glucose levels remain stable and within a healthy range. This involves a careful balance between food intake, exercise and medication.
Type 1 diabetes is treated by replacing the body’s missing insulin and people with this condition must:
- use insulin every day (usually four to five injections per day or an insulin pump)
- regularly test their blood glucose (up to six times per day) or use a glucose sensor
- eat a healthy diet matched with the insulin dose
- take exercise as any other child of the same age.
Education to enable self-management is the cornerstone of diabetes care and continues at all ages and duration of the illness.
Endocrinology and Diabetes
Level 3c, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 5264
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NICE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence | www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng18/informationforpublic/type-1-diabetes-in-children-and-young-people/chapter/Learning-about-type-1-diabetes
Diabetes Australia | www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/
Caring for Diabetes in Children and Adolescents | http://video.rch.org.au/diabetes/Diabetes_Book_Third_Edition.pdf