Is your teen suffering from Diabetes? Are you worried about the other health complications he may face early on in life? If you can relate to the above situations, it is time to check out the following post!
As parents, it is natural to worry about the slightest discomfort of your teen. He is already struggling to cope with hormonal changes during this phase. Does the mere thought of your teen being diabetic seem like the worst nightmare for you? Diabetes has become an epidemic in recent times. The dreadful lifestyle disease can affect individuals of all age groups. There are several factors that cause Diabetes in teens or early adulthood. Some of them include genetic factors, metabolic disorder, etc. Want to know more about the symptoms of diabetes to watch out for in your adolescent and the treatment for the disease? Go ahead and give this article a read!
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health disorder that affects individuals of any age group or sex. When your teen has an excess amount of sugar dissolved in his blood or urine, it means he is suffering from Diabetes. It also indicates that his pancreas is not producing sufficient insulin necessary to keep his blood sugar levels in check. There is no cure for diabetes. A doctor can help your teen control his blood sugar levels with the help of medications or insulin. Your teen would also need to follow a healthy diet and active lifestyle to keep his blood sugar level under control.
Due to diabetes your teen can suffer from numerous health complications that include the following:
- Heart diseases
- Loss of vision
- Renal failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Amputation of lower extremities
- Nerve damage
Diabetes is a life-long condition that can have a huge impact on your teen’s overall health and well-being. Hence, it becomes very important for him to stay under strict supervision, take medicine regularly, lead a stress-free life and exercise regularly (1).
[ Read: Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorder In Teens ]
Types Of Diabetes In Teens:
There are two types of Diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes, accounts for up to 10 percent cases of the dreadful disease. Autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors can increase the risk of this type of diabetes. In this type of diabetes, your teen’s hyperactive immune system may destroy the cells that produce insulin and regulate his blood sugar levels.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes, earlier called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes, accounts for almost 90-95 percent cases of the disease. In this form of Diabetes, the teen’s body cannot utilize the produced insulin as it suffers from a condition called insulin resistance. Gradually it affects the functioning of the pancreas adversely as it starts producing less insulin. It can lead to a build-up of sugar in your teen’s blood stream (2).
[ Read: Hyperhidrosis In Teens ]
Causes Of Diabetes In Teens:
There are several factors that can lead to diabetes:
- Dysfunctional Pancreas: The pancreas in your teen’s body starts malfunctioning and cannot produce the insulin requisite for breaking down food and converting it into energy. It can increase his blood sugar levels and cause diabetes.
- Heredity: Diabetes is a hereditary disease that passes on to the next generation of a family having a medical history of Diabetes. Your teen is likely to suffer from diabetes if your partner or you or any of his siblings suffers from it.
- Racial Factors: People belonging to certain races like African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans are more prone to Type 2 diabetes than others.
- Age: Diabetes can affect individuals belonging to different age groups. However, with growing age the level of physical activity decreases, and this increases the risk of suffering from diabetes.
- Viral Infections: A viral infection can destroy or damage the beta cells in your teen’s body. It can also trigger an autoimmune response that adversely affects the functioning of his pancreas and causes diabetes. Some common viral infections that can lead to type 1 diabetes include coxsackievirus B, cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, rubella, and mumps. The onset of Type 1 diabetes usually occurs during winters when viral infections are common.
- Obesity: One of the major factors that can lead to your teen becoming diabetic is obesity. Excessive weight gain prevents the body from responding to insulin. Central obesity or excess abdominal fat is a major risk factor not only for type 2 diabetes but also for many other cardiovascular diseases.
- Poor Diet: The human body needs different nutrients and minerals in appropriate proportion to function properly. It is important to consume a well-balanced diet, especially during the growth years. But if your teen loves to binge on sugary and fatty food or consumes a carbohydrate-rich diet on a daily basis, he is likely to suffer from diabetes.
- Cigarette Or Alcohol Addiction: Addiction to smoking or alcohol is a common habit among teenagers. If your teen too loves to smoke and drink, his chances of suffering from Diabetes are pretty high. These unhealthy habits can disturb his body’s metabolic activity and negatively affect the production of insulin.
- Extreme Stress: Stress is another important factor that can trigger diabetes. Your teen suffers from constant stress due to increasing academic burden, peer pressure, etc. Excess worrying can take a toll on his body’s metabolism, and lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Most of the teens these days are highly lethargic and negligent about their health. If your teen spends hours enjoying virtual gaming action instead of playing outdoor sports, he has high chances of suffering from high blood sugar levels early on in life. A lack of physical activity can lead to a slowdown in metabolic activity in your teen’s body and diabetes (3).
[ Read: Stress Management Tips For Teens ]
Symptoms Of Diabetes In Teens:
Here are some of the common symptoms of teenage diabetes Type 1 you need to watch out for in your teen:
- Frequent Urination: Your teen may start making frequent trips to the toilet especially at night. It indicates that his kidneys are working extra hard to get rid of the excess sugar in his body by producing more urine than normal.
- Excessive Thirst: Frequent urination due to high blood sugar levels can make your teen feel dehydrated. He may feel thirsty due to loss of water in the form of urine.
- Weight Loss: If your teen is suddenly losing weight without working out or controlling his diet he may be diabetic. Loss of sugar and water due to frequent urination can cause this weight loss and be a sign of diabetes.
- Extreme Hunger: As your teen’s body cannot convert food into energy using insulin, he may feel hungry all the time.
- Fatigue: As your teen’s body does not convert food into energy, he may suffer from excessive bouts of fatigue.
- Blurred Vision: A sugar build-up in the lens of your teen’s eye can make it watery. It can alter the shape of the lens and cause a blurring of his vision.
- Extreme Irritability: Due to a lack of energy, your teen may become easily irritated and suffer from severe mood swings.
[ Read: Common Eating Disorders In Teenagers ]
Other symptoms of type 1 diabetes in teenagers include:
- A rapid heart rate and weak pulse
- Warm, dry skin
- Numbness, or pain in the hands or feet. If your teen has high blood sugar levels, it may interfere with the blood circulation in his bod (4).
Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms In Teens:
If your teen is suffering from Type 2 diabetes, he may suffer from the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling of extreme hungry
- Frequent urination
- Heavy breathing
- Slow healing of cuts and grazes
- Darkened skin is a sign of insulin resistance. These pigmented patches of skin appear in the armpits or neck area (5).
[ Read: Signs Of Dehydration In Teens ]
Diagnosis Of Diabetes In Teens:
Here are some of the medical tests, your doctor may advise your teen to undergo if he suspects him to be suffering from diabetes:
- Glycated Hemoglobin (Hemoglobin A1C) Test: Doctor may recommend your teen to take the Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test to measure the amount of blood sugar in his bloodstream. Glucose molecules in the blood normally stick to the hemoglobin molecules making it glycated. As your teen’s blood sugar levels increase, more of his hemoglobin cells will become glycated. A blood test can measure the amount of glycated hemoglobin in the blood. The glycated hemoglobin test shows what your teen’s average blood glucose level was for three months before the test. The hemoglobin A1C level of 6.5 or higher clearly indicates that your teen is diabetic. If the hemoglobin A1C level lies between 5.7 and 6.4, it indicates that your teen is prediabetic. However, if the hemoglobin A1C level is below 5.7, your teen is non-diabetic.
- Random Blood Sugar Test: When the hemoglobin A1C test does not accurately indicate the measure of blood sugar level, the doctor may suggest your teen to undergo a random blood sugar test. The test examines your teen’s blood sugar level anytime during the day. The blood sugar level of 200mg/DL or 11.1 mmol/L clearly indicates that your teen is diabetic.
- Fasting Plasma Glucose Test: After fasting overnight, post dinner to pre-breakfast, your teen can undergo this test. When the fasting blood sugar level of your teen is predominantly less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L), there is no cause for worry. But if the fasting blood sugar level lies between 100 and 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) he is prediabetic. But if the fasting blood sugar level is higher than 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L), he is diabetic.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: Doctors conduct the first blood test only after your teen fasts overnight. For the second blood test, the doctor will ask your teen to consume a sugary liquid. The series of blood tests will measure his plasma glucose for the next 3 hours after each hour. The blood sugar level less than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is normal. If the reading is more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) your teen is suffering from Diabetes. A blood sugar between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L) indicates your teen is prediabetic.
- Urine Test: After analyzing your teen’s plasma glucose levels the doctor may suggest him to undergo a urine test. A presence of sugar in your teen’s urine indicates that his pancreas is not functioning normally, and he is diabetic (6).
Treating Diabetes In Teenager:
Your doctor may advise the following to help your teen control his blood sugar levels:
- Following A Proper Meal Plan: For every diabetic person, it is extremely important to follow a balanced diet plan. Your diabetic teens must eat a healthy diet with each nutrition except carbohydrates in requisite proportion. Additionally, he should eat fibrous fruits and whole grains like oats, or whole wheat bread. A healthy diet will boost his metabolism, prevent obesity and keep the threat of diabetes at bay. Your teen needs to avoid the intake of sugary and oily foods strictly. By following his diet plan, he can keep his fluctuating blood sugar levels in check and stay fit for life. It is best to seek professional help to help your teen with his meal-planning. You can approach an experienced dietitian who can formulate a complete diet plan for your diabetic teen. He can guide him about what all he should eat and what he should avoid. By planning his diet properly, your teen can regulate his energy levels, maintain his body weight and control his blood sugar levels.
[ Read: Weight Loss Tips For Teens ]
- Exercising Regularly: As a diabetic teen, it is very important for him to indulge in physical activities like swimming, jogging, walking, cycling, yoga, aerobic or light stretching exercises. Regular exercising easily lowers the blood sugar level and enhances the rate of metabolism. Additionally, exercising increases your teen’s sensitivity to insulin. Your teen can seek the help of a professional trainer to include some safe exercises in his daily workout. If he finds hitting the gym a bit tiring, he can start with some light exercises at first. An active lifestyle can help your teen manage his diabetes well and enjoy good health and fitness.
[ Read: Benefits Of Regular Exercises For Teens ]
- Regular Monitoring Of The Blood Sugar Level: Monitoring the blood sugar levels on a regular basis is key to a successful management of diabetes. Help your teen check and record his blood sugar levels. It will help him provide these details to his doctor for ready reference. It will help his doctor decide the treatment he needs to manage his diabetes.
- Insulin Injections: When your teen suffers from acute Type 1 Diabetes, he may also have to undergo insulin therapy to survive. There are different variations of insulin available in the market. Some of them include long-acting insulin, rapid-acting insulin, and intermediate options. Depending upon the severity of your teen’s Diabetes, the medical practitioner may recommend a specific type of insulin for him. Doctors advise against the oral intake of insulin in the form of medications. As the stomach enzymes prohibit the action of the oral insulin, it is not safe for your teen to use. The doctor may prescribe insulin shots for your teen, which he can take using a syringe or an insulin pen.
- Additional Medical Tests: In addition to the regular monitoring of the blood sugar levels, the doctor may further recommend your diabetic teen to perform hemoglobin A1C medical test after every three months. The hemoglobin A1C test can indicate the average blood sugar level of your teen during a quarter. In addition to the hemoglobin A1C test, the doctor will also periodically check your teen’s cholesterol levels, thyroid function, liver function, and kidney function using blood and urine samples. The doctor will also examine his blood pressure and make sure he is growing properly. Regular eye exams and dental checkups are also important.
- Oral Medications: Your teen’s doctor may also prescribe oral drugs to help him manage his diabetes. Some diabetes medications can stimulate his pancreas to produce and release more insulin. Others inhibit the production and release of glucose from his liver. Still others block the action of the stomach or intestinal enzymes that break down carbohydrates or make his tissues more sensitive to insulin. Metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza, others) is a popular medicine doctors prescribe to manage type 2 diabetes initially.
- Pancreas Transplantation: If your teen is suffering from an acute form of Type 1 Diabetes, the doctor may recommend him to undergo a transplantation of the pancreas. After a successful transplantation procedure, he will not need the insulin therapy to manage his diabetes. But organ transplantation is a complex and risky medical procedure, and the consequences can be fatal. Post surgery, your teen will need to take immune-suppressing drugs for life to prevent the rejection of the organ. These medications can cause serious side effects including a high risk of infection, organ injury, and cancer. As the side effects of these drugs can be more dangerous than diabetes, doctors do not suggest such an extensive surgery until and unless it is a case of uncontrolled diabetes.
- Bariatric Surgery: If your teen is suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, he may have an abnormal Body Mass Index or BMI. If his BMI measures above 35, the doctor may suggest him to undergo a bariatric surgery. Teens with Type 2 Diabetes show a significant improvement in their blood sugar levels after undergoing a bariatric surgery (7).
Tips To Prevent Diabetes In Teenagers:
Here are some helpful tips to protect your teen from the threat of diabetes:
- Serve a balanced meal to your teen every day. He should have foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber.
- Ask your teen to exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. He can go for a jog, or swim or ride a bike. He can also take up a sport of his choice or join a dance class to enjoy better fitness.
- If your teen is overweight then losing even 7% of his weight can reduce the risk of diabetes. Encourage him to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly to enjoy better health and fitness (8).
Fortunately, by following the doctor’s prescription for medications and changing a few lifestyle habits your teen can deal with Diabetes effectively. As a responsible parent, it becomes your sole duty to offer requisite support to your diabetic teen. Inculcate healthy lifestyle habits in your teen to safeguard his well-being for life. You should act as a role model for him and lead him by example. You can even exercise together to spend quality time and bond better while working out.
Now you know all about diabetes in teens and how to help them deal with it. So why wait? Go ahead and enlighten fellow moms!
Does your teen suffer from diabetes? How did you help him control his blood sugar level? Did the medical consultant suggest insulin injection or other treatment procedures? How did it benefit him? Do share the complete story of your diabetic teen here! Your valuable inputs can help other mothers who are facing a similar situation.