Diabetes in Children

What is diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a disorder in which the body cannot properly use glucose as an energy source. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make enough of the hormone insulin, which enables the body to properly utilize glucose. Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed due to an autoimmune process in which the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys its own organs or tissues. People with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin shots. This is the more prevalent form of diabetes in children and young adults. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin but the body cannot use it effectively, referred to as insulin resistance. Gradually, insulin production slows down, as is the case in type 1 diabetes. Previously unheard of in children and teens, type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed more often in youngsters, which many public health experts blame on the rising tide of childhood obesity.


  • Headaches

  • Increased thirst

  • Frequent urination

  • Increased appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Blurred vision

  • Fatigue

  • Dry mouth

Note: Even though type 1 diabetes may take years to develop, the onset of symptoms is fairly sudden and rapid. Undiagnosed and untreated, a person with type 1 diabetes can go into a life-threatening diabetic coma (ketoacidosis). Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are the same as the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, but unlike type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to develop slowly and gradually.  


A diagnosis is typically made with a blood glucose test, measuring the levels of sugar in the blood. In a condition called prediabetes, the fasting blood sugar level is elevated but not to a degree that constitutes diabetes. People who have repeated tests showing elevated fasting glucose are said to have prediabetes, a condition that increases the risk of developing full-blown diabetes.

When to Call for Help

If your child develops any of the above symptoms, consult a pediatrician immediately.  


Type 1 diabetes:

  • Daily insulin injections

  • Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise

  • Frequent blood glucose checking to monitor blood glucose levels

Depending on how far it has progressed, type 2 diabetes is treated with:

  • Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise

  • Regular blood glucose testing

  • Oral medication

  • Insulin injections

Regular physical exams are critical for people with both types of diabetes to monitor and treat any arising complications, such as eye problems, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and neuropathy (damage to the nerves).

Request an Appointment

Find a Doctor
Find a Doctor