Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) situation is a severe complication where the sugar level shoots to high levels and acidic particles called ketones form up to unsafe levels in the body, says Dr Atish Ladd.
Teenage is a precarious age period for children who already go through hormonal changes, embrace adolescence and have to deal with their developing body and mind.
Adding to this trouble, if the child is detected with diabetes, the situation becomes tough to deal with.
Diabetes is basically a health condition when the pancreas in the body are incapable of producing insulin in the body or doesn’t make good use of it.
Teenagers who develop diabetes have a greater risk of health challenges throughout their life.
An early diagnosis of signs and symptoms can help a child to get a timely treatment, which in turn gives a chance of a better outcome.
Until recently teenagers were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes but now younger people are getting type 2 of diabetes.
Let us understand the difference, symptoms and treatment for the same.
Type 1 Diabetes
Although, Type 1 can be detected at any age, the prime age for its detection is when the child is between 10-14 years.
Also called as juvenile diabetes, this is a condition when the pancreas is ineffectual in producing insulin in the body.
Due to the immune system destroying the cells responsible for making insulin, the pancreas can never again make insulin in the body.
Absence of this insulin obstructs the sugar to travel from the blood into the cells. With the sugar continuing to exist in the blood, the result in high blood sugar levels.
The first symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
- Frequent urination -- where the extra blood sugar is being pushed out of the body through urine.
- Increased appetite: Sugar gives the body energy but when this sugar is jammed in the blood and doesn’t get a chance to wade into the cells, the body looks out for alternate means for getting the required energy and hence turns to eating more food.
- Escalated increase in intake of water: Constant urination leaves the body in the want of more water.
- Abnormal weight loss: Since energy is not received by the body through natural means and it is depending on other nutrients, there is a deplete in the resources in the body leading to weight loss.
- Fatigue: Owing to the above-mentioned pointers, the body goes on to feel tired and restless all the time.
On noticing these first symptoms happening together, one has to immediately consult a doctor.
Ignoring these symptoms may lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) situation -- sugar build up in the blood causing breathing problems, nausea, and stomach pain in the patient.
DKA is a severe complication where the sugar level shoot to high levels and acidic particles called ketones form up to unsafe levels in the body.
Also, teenage girls who suffer from vaginal yeast infections should get themselves checked for ruling out the possibility of Type 1 diabetes.
To keep Type 1 Diabetes under control, one must monitor and maintain the blood sugar levels within the range they should be in.
This can be done by eating a healthy diet with the correct amount of carbohydrate count and doing regular exercises.
On the medication front, this can be stabilised by regular doses of insulin through insulin pump or shots that will have to continue lifelong.
Type 2 Diabetes
While Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent as people grow older, teenagers are also not completely relieved from the probability of not having this health condition.
Teenagers who are obese or who have a history of abnormal insulin functioning or diabetes across their family often suffer from T2 diabetes.
The difference here is even while the pancreas is able to produce insulin in the body, the anomalous working of insulin leads to glucose not travelling to the cells but stay accumulated in the blood. This results in high blood sugar levels leading to diabetes.
The first symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:
- Frequent urination, where the extra blood sugar is being pushed out of the body through urine.
- Escalated increase in intake of water- constant urination leaves the body in the want of more water.
The body goes on to feel tired and restless all the time.
Teenagers who are insulin resistant and are obese can also observe skin darkening around their neck, knees, elbows, legs, fingers, toes etc. which will gradually get lighter once the insulin resistance gets better.
Also, there is a bigger health issue of girls suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which result in irregular periods or no periods.
This can be treated by eating healthy balanced diet, fighting obesity by losing weight.
It’s advisable to keep a check on the blood sugars and other branched problems because of type 2 diabetes if any in the teen should be treated.
What does it feel like to be a teen with Type 1/ Type 2 Diabetes?
There are times when teens with diabetes feel different -- anxious, over-protected and especially not fully normal as their friends because they need to devour insulin to control the blood sugar levels every day and manage diabetes.
This difference in behaviour and controlled living style may lead them to anger like situations, helplessness etc. leading to depression.
The next very extreme is ignoring the existence of Type 1/ Type 2 diabetes and presuming that it will fade away on its own.
This is extremely concerning as not controlling the blood sugar levels will just not limit to diabetes but will branch out to other health issues that can be grave in effect.
If your teen is detected with Type 1/ Type 2 diabetes, in addition to medication, take the help of your diabetes medical practitioner who will show you the right direction forward.
There are also numerous professional support groups who counsel on how to face this condition and wrestle it.
It’s a myth that diabetes will slow down one’s life as with proper care and support, teens suffering from this condition can also lead a normal life as their friends by doing the day to day activities like playing sports, dancing, etc.
Dr Atish Laddad is founder and director, Docterz, a Mumbai-based company that provides data and tech solutions for paediatricians across India.
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