Diabetes in children (juvenile diabetes) is overwhelming, especially when it begins at a very early age. Type 1 diabetes is common in children, an autoimmune condition in which the pancreatic beta cells are destroyed, leading to the insufficient production of insulin and causing high blood sugar levels. Though type 2 diabetes also affects children probably due to obesity, the prevalence is less compared to adults.
1. Polydipsia or excessive thirst
Polydipsia or excessive thirst can be caused due to diabetes insipidus in children. In this diabetes type, there’s an imbalance of fluids in the body causing excessive thirst, even if you had drunk something a minutes ago.
2. Polyuria or frequent urination
Polyuria is often followed by polydipsia. When the body glucose spikes, the kidney is signalled to remove extra glucose from the body through urination. This result in polyuria, which in turn, causes excessive need to drink water or polydipsia.
If you observe that your child is hungry all the time, and even excessive food intake is unable to fulfil them, consult a medical expert as it may be a sign of diabetes. Without insulin, the body is unable to use glucose for energy, and this lack of energy causes increased hunger.
4. Unexplained weight loss
Another symptom of diabetes mellitus in children is unexplained weight loss. Children suffering from diabetes tend to lose a lot of weight in a very short time. This is because, when glucose conversion to energy is restricted due to low production of insulin, the body starts burning muscle and stored fats for energy, causing unexplained weight loss.
Fruity-smell breath is due to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKS), a condition that arises due to the lack of insulin in the body. It is considered a fatal diabetes symptom in children. Here, in the absence of glucose, the body starts burning fat for energy, and the process produces ketones (blood acids). The typical smell of ketones can be identified by the fruit-like smell in the breath.
6. Behavioural problems
According to a study, behavioural problems in diabetic children is greater compared to non-diabetic children. Around 20 out of 80 diabetic children show bad behaviour such as breaking the diet, high temper, introversion or resisting discipline and authority. This can be due to several factors such as tolerant of the disease, strict regimentation at home, extra attention to a normal sibling by parents or the feeling of ‘being different’ among others. All these factors can lead to mood change, anxiousness and depression.
7. Darkening of the skin
Acanthosis nigricans (AN) or darkening of the skin is commonly linked to diabetes. In children and teenagers, the common site of AN is the posterior neck. Thickening and darkening of the skin folds are mainly due to hyperinsulinemia caused as a result of insulin resistance.
8. Always tired
Fatigue or a feeling of tiredness all the time can easily be identified in diabetic children. A type 1 diabetic child does not have enough insulin to convert glucose into energy. The lack of energy thus, makes them tired easily or after a small physical activity.
9. Vision problems
The prevalence of the ocular disease in diabetic children is more compared to normal ones. The high blood sugar damages the nerves of the eyes and causes eye problems such as blurred vision or total blindness, if diabetes is not controlled after being diagnosed. This diabetes symptom in children is overlooked most of the times.
10. Yeast infection
A study has shown that yeast infection is higher in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus, especially in girls suffering from the condition. Gut microbiota is an important factor that prevents the occurrence of autoimmune diseases like diabetes. When high body glucose disturbs the microbiota, the growth of microorganisms get influenced, leading to their increased production that contribute to yeast infection.
11. Delayed wound healing
High blood sugar in the body disrupts the functioning of the immune system, increases inflammation, prevents glucose conversion to energy and leads to the reduced blood supply to body parts. All these factors cause delayed wound healing in children, leading to more serious complications.