Doctors note increase in type 1 diabetes in children

Four-year-old Ella Ozdemir was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes earlier this year.
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Some children with flu-like symptoms are being diagnosed with something much more serious.

Kelli and Gemi Ozdemir are the parents of three children. Earlier this year, their oldest child, Ella, started drinking a lot of water, eating without gaining weight and, at the advice of a friend, they took her to the doctor.

"We're sitting there talking to some people, 'Hey, Ella's drinking a lot of water and eating and going to the bathroom like crazy. Neither of us knew the symptoms," the Ozdemirs said.

It has been almost six months since four-year-old Ella and her parents found out life as they knew it was changing. Ella was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a disease with no known cure, that requires insulin injections and constant monitoring of her blood sugar.

According to Dr. Tamara Hannon, a pediatrician at IU Riley who specializes in the treatment of type 1 diabetic children, kids like Ella, who show no outward sign of being sick, have something mapped in their genes to develop diabetes. However, to set the disease in motion requires a push

"Flu viruses could all be possible targets for what might tip somebody over the edge," Hannon said.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are similar to common colds, vomiting, headaches and fever. Just this week, Riley Hospital has seen a number of newly-diagnosed type 1 diabetic children that had been to their family doctor with flu-like symptoms, but were sent home, only to end up in the emergency room with dangerously high blood sugar levels.

With the help of a blood glucose meter, Ella tests her own blood for sugar at least four times a day. The kids that are landing in the emergency room have blood sugar levels six-to-seven times higher than Ella's controlled levels. Without insulin to control the level, type 1 diabetes can lead to coma and eventually death.

"But clearly, something is going on to lead to a rapid increase of type 1 diabetes. It's not secondary to obesity," said Hannon.

Doctors tell Eyewitness News type 1 diabetes is growing faster than type 2, which is commonly known as adult onset diabetes. If you have concerns, call your doctor and, if there is a history of type 1 diabetes in your family, there is a screening process that is being partially conducted by doctors and researchers at Indiana University called TrialNet.