Type 1 diabetes, once called “juvenile diabetes”, has shockingly increased among children over the past twenty years. Worldwide, more children are becoming diabetic patients with numbers increasing at 3% to 5% every year – or approximately 15 new cases per 100,000 children. But statistics do not tell the full story.
Type 1 diabetes victims have their pancreas failing to produce sufficient insulin. The hormone insulin enables sugar (glucose) entering cells to produce the energy needed for the body to function.
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are evident: frequent urination, excess thirst, a feeling of fatigue, weight loss. But lack of awareness creates ignorance of diabetic realities, with the result that myths and misconceptions spread. Wrong information, delayed in seeking medical help for children adds to worsen the diabetic condition. It can lead to death.
Two common myths: insulin injections are habit-forming; oral medication cures type 1 diabetes. Both are untrue. The treatment of type 1 diabetes needs insulin treatment appropriate to the needs of the individual patient – with an endocrinologist (doctor specializing in the treatment of endocrine and hormonal disorders) deciding on the best course of treatment.
Caring for diabetic children involves team effort with the expertise of paediatric endocrinologists, paediatric nutritionists, diabetes educators, counsellors and support groups.
Advances in insulin therapy also bring good news for children suffering from Type 1 diabetes. This ensures better insulin treatment with minimal inconvenience to the child. New forms of treatment reduce diabetes-related complications as well as increased life expectancy.
One such new diabetes-fighting technology is the insulin pump. Insulin pumps have improved the quality of life of children with Type 1 diabetes. These pumps largely spare the diabetic child from the painful routine of needle pricks. They help the child lead a more normal life, enjoy the usual games of childhood and physical exercise and even enjoy the treat of occasional snacks – with the safeguard of convenient insulin doses.
Similar developments in diabetic research offer the happy promise of more effective and convenient treatment to children with Type 1 diabetes. The silver lining of better treatment lights up the darkest clouds of deadly diseases affecting the lives of children and adults.