Learn More About Childhood Diabetes - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Learn More About Childhood Diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month—and St.Vincent Health and Check Up 13 are working to help more people understand the symptoms, risks, and treatment options for this disease that affects millions of Americans and their families.

How many millions? According to the American Diabetes Association, 24 million American adults and children live with diabetes—and another 57 million Americans are at risk. If current trends continue, one out of every three children in America may be facing a future that includes diabetes.

The most common type of diabetes in children is Type 1 diabetes, which is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin: a hormone that helps move sugar from the blood to the body's cells, where it can be used as energy. The risk of Type 1 diabetes is not related to weight or lifestyle.

Today, however, more children and adolescents are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Lifestyle can greatly influence your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. The most common risk factors include:

  • Obesity. It's the number-one risk factor for diabetes. Fat interferes with the body's ability to use insulin—so overweight people are much more likely than others to develop Type 2 diabetes.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. It goes hand-in-hand with obesity. Since muscle cells have more insulin than fat cells—and activity lowers blood sugar—you actually mitigate your risk of diabetes by exercising.
  • Poor eating habits. Ditto: 90 percent of people who develop Type 2 diabetes are overweight.
  • Family history. People with a history of diabetes in their family are more likely to develop the disease. African-Americans, Latino-Americans, and Native Americans all have increased risk for diabetes.
  • Age. Although more and more kids are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the risk increases as we get older.

What are the symptoms of diabetes to look for in children? According to Dr. Andrew Riggs at the pediatric endocrinology and diabetes department at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent, some of the most common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, and blurry vision. "Testing for diabetes should be considered if a child awakens at night frequently to urinate or get a drink of water" says Dr. Riggs.

Diabetes is a serious disease, and a diagnosis of new onset diabetes can be extremely stressful, even overwhelming for the patient as well as the parents. The long-term effects can be devastating. Unchecked diabetes can lead to problems with vision and circulation, kidney and nerve damage, and other health problems.

Diabetes does not have a cure. But millions of people with diabetes lead normal lives—as long as they're carefully managing their condition with the help of trained healthcare professionals.

The pediatric endocrinology and diabetes department at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent specializes in diabetes care in children, with an emphasis on personalized family care. Patients referred to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital with new onset Type I diabetes are typically admitted to the hospital for a 24-48 hour period during which they receive intensive education from nurses, specialized diabetes educators, dieticians, and other members of the diabetes team. Patients and parents have plenty of opportunity to practice blood sugar checks and insulin injections with observation and assistance from experienced staff.

All new patients are then scheduled for follow-up outpatient education and visits with a nurse practitioner in addition to the physician. Surveys have consistently shown that families appreciate this comprehensive follow-up and education and feel that they benefit significantly from it.

The experts at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent also maintains close contact by phone with all newly diagnosed patients to help them through this challenging period. As a result of all this focused attention, nearly 100 percent of pediatric patients at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent are not re-admitted for diabetes related illnesses. Also, they strive to ensure that quality of life and daily activities for kids are essentially unaffected by diabetes, according to Dr. Riggs.

St.Vincent Health and Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent are also passionate about helping prevent diabetes in kids. This past spring, Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent launched Project 18: a program to help Indiana families set goals, eat smarter, and get active. Developed in conjunction with Ball State University and Marsh Supermarkets, Project 18 is already part of health education classes in more than 250 schools across Indiana. Kids are learning to live more healthful lives—and having fun doing it.

What about kids who are already overweight? Families in Central Indiana can turn to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent's L.I.F.E. (Lifetime Individual Fitness and Eating) for Kids Program. L.I.F.E. for Kids puts families together with healthcare professionals who can help them eat a variety of nutritious foods, become more physically active, and set goals they can achieve and feel good about. The year-long program integrates education and counseling from a multidisciplinary team that includes a physician, dietician, exercise physiologist, behaviorist, and nurse. It's a proven program that helps kids make changes for the better.

Diabetes is a growing problem in Central Indiana and across America. But greater awareness of the risks and complications of diabetes, and a more healthy approach to living, can go a long way toward minimizing the risk for you and your children.

For more information and additional resources, please visit the Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Center at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent website.

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