Diabetes in children and adolescentsDiagnosis of diabetes: More than eight million people in Germany live with diabetes. Children and adolescents are also increasingly affected due to obesity and lack of exercise.
Klaus-Peter Wagner, specialist in diabetology at the Helios Klinik Rottweil, provides information on diagnosis, progression and therapy.
Differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes
Diabetes, the technical term for diabetes mellitus , is divided into two types. Both link that the production of the hormone insulin is disturbed. This is how blood sugar levels are derailed, since insulin is the only hormone that can regulate blood sugar in the human body.
Type 1 diabetes
In the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes, the cells of the pancreas fail until they can no longer produce insulin at all. This occurs regardless of the eating habits of those affected. In most cases, the disease begins in the early years of life, so children and adolescents are particularly affected by this type of diabetes. Patients have to inject insulin for the rest of their lives because their bodies can no longer produce this hormone themselves. A cure is not currently possible. Current research and studies are focusing intensively on the question of whether this type of diabetes can be diagnosed before its onset and whether there are any possible cures.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is also known colloquially as "adult-onset diabetes," since this form progresses very gradually and the consequences usually only become apparent at an advanced age. In recent years, more and more young adults and adolescents are becoming ill due to poor nutrition. Type 2 diabetes not only has a hereditary component, but in the majority of patients it is also the result of their lifestyle habits: Obesity and lack of exercise are the most important causes of this disease. If the body has had to produce high amounts of insulin over many years, the efficiency of the pancreas decreases. In addition, the body's cells develop a certain resistance to insulin if they are not fed properly. The gap between the insulin produced and the insulin required continues to widen until the blood sugar is completely derailed.
This is how the first signs manifest themselves
If the first, typical symptoms in children and adolescents are recognized early, complications and secondary diseases such as obesity, kidney damage and even blindness can be avoided. The family also plays an important role:
If you or a family member notice abnormalities such as constant thirst, frequent urination, a persistent feeling of limpness or an increased tendency to infections, you should have these symptoms clarified by a doctor
If it is determined during the examination that a disease is present, it is important to find the right way to deal with it. "Whenever a family member is affected by diabetes, be it one's own child, a parent, or even a partner, the family faces challenges. An open approach to the disease, support and understanding are extremely important in this situation", knows Wagner. The initial fear of shots in younger children or the resurgence of a defiant sense of self-determination during puberty are situations that families must manage together.
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Diagnosis of diabetes mellitus: What restrictions does it impose on children and adolescents??
Young patients learn the right way to deal with the disease in diabetes training sessions | Photo: Canva
In the case of type 1 diabetes, children and their parents already learn intensively in the clinic how to deal with the disease. Regular blood glucose monitoring and appropriate insulin doses are part of their everyday life – this requires a high degree of discipline, not only from the young patients, but also from family members. The subject of nutrition always plays an important role here. As long as insulin is administered regularly and a derailment of blood glucose levels is prevented, the affected children do not have any physical limitations. They can play and romp as usual and lead a normal life.
How does a therapy proceed?
If children are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, the first priority is to treat the acute symptoms. Once the young patients have been stabilized after diagnosis, the clinics offer them and their parents diabetes training, both on how to measure blood glucose and on the options for insulin administration. Regular examinations and check-ups are also discussed, which are necessary to prevent secondary diseases. These check-ups are determined individually depending on the age of the child and the severity of the disease, and are coordinated with both the attending diabetology specialist and the pediatrician.
Diabetes: Reducing the risks
Children who hardly exercise and eat a lot of sweets or unhealthy carbohydrates have a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. "Anyone who is regularly given sweets as a reward or consolation as a child will retain this eating behavior – and as an adult will reach for a chocolate bar or cake in both pleasant and stressful situations.", says the diabetologist. "Or, in the worst case, develop diabetes at a young age if you eat an extremely unhealthy diet,". The good news is that if this type of diabetes is detected early, plenty of exercise and a healthy diet can actually cure the disease – as long as it is not genetically determined. A lot of consistency is necessary and an appropriate sustainability, in relation to all three factors.
A consistent change of lifestyle is always worthwhile. Children can thus be given the chance to lead a life without diabetes. People who already have the disease also benefit significantly from a positive change in lifestyle. In this way, you can significantly counteract the first symptoms of diabetes.
8 valuable tips for a healthier approach to sweets and snacks:
– Reward children with small surprises instead of sweets – for example, with a trip to the playground together, with sidewalk chalks, a jump rope. Or build a snowman in winter. – A child who is unwell or has hurt himself needs encouragement and comfort – but not necessarily something sweet. It is often enough to take your time. – Eliminate soft drinks from your home beverage menu, including zero products. – Remember: a liter of apple juice or orange juice has the calorie content of a bar of chocolate. – Make sure that in your family the "little hunger in between" is satisfied with an apple or with vegetables instead of chocolate cookies. – Get creative – sliced vegetables and whole grain breads can be used to "craft" amazing creations that entice children to eat healthfully. There are plenty of ideas on the Internet! – Deliberately make a sweet dessert once or twice a week – this keeps it special without making it a habit. – Make it difficult for your family to have access to sweets – or don't buy sweets in the first place.
German Diabetes Society (DDG)
The German Diabetes Association (DDG) is one of the world's leading diabetes organizations.000 members one of the largest medical-scientific professional societies in Germany.
The members include doctors in clinics and practices, psychologists, pharmacists, scientists, diabetes specialists and other diabetological experts.
The DDG is committed to research and science, organizes continuing education, certifies treatment facilities and drafts guidelines.
In 2015, Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch became the first maximum-care facility in Germany to be certified by the German Diabetes Association (DDG). Many other Helios clinics throughout Germany have since been certified by the DDG.