Type 1 diabetes, also known as Juvenile diabetes, has many symptoms that, unfortunately, mimic many common childhood milestones. Learn how to discern the difference between diabetes symptoms and run of the mill healthy childhood behaviors.
1. Increased thirst. As active as children are, it isn’t unreasonable for your child to be demanding more drinks one day from the next. But if your child is thirsty all hours of the day and night and seems to crave ice cold water with the frequency of an addict, their kidneys may be trying to flush glucose from the body. Without insulin to move the glucose along through the blood stream to process it, the sugar builds up triggering a natural desire for more liquids. This is one of the most well-known and recognizable of the Type 1 diabetes symptoms.
2. Increased urination. The body tries to flush out the build-up of glucose through the urine. This need to flush the system can even lead to a sudden onset of night time bed wetting. Unfortunately, because your child is urinating so frequently, they become dehydrated because everything they drink is almost immediately lost. It would be easy to assume that they are merely suffering from a urinary tract infection or that they have bladders the size of chick peas and to attempt to limit their liquid intake.
3. Breath that smells sweet and like fruit. This symptom is also sneaky in that it could be explained away by the fruity flavored toothpastes that children use these days or by the healthy fruit snacks that they are fed. The sweet smell of their breath is a result of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is the body’s attempt to get rid of acetone through the respiratory system. Sweet smelling breath is a signal that poisonous ketones (acid by-products of fats being broken down for energy) are building up in the body. This symptom is a sign that they urgently require diabetes medication.
4. Constant hunger. Children are always growing and always hungry. However, a child with undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes will be ravenous. The food they are eating isn’t being transformed into energy, because the body requires insulin to do that. The sugars that the body breaks the food down into begin to build up in the system causing the cycle of extreme thirst, urination and hunger.
5. Sizable sudden weight loss. Children seem to grow over night and a child that was on the stocky pudgy side last month may appear taller and skinny this month. The difference is that a natural growth spurt will look like a weight loss, but is actually growth and does not usually involve a true loss of weight. However, the weight loss of a child with undiagnosed diabetes will be extreme and sudden. It will occur when they seem to be eating all the time and will seem very different from their usual behavior.
Individually, each of the symptoms listed above, could be seen as natural phases in your child’s development, however, when they occur at the same time, you should see an enormous red flag and book a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. Type 1 diabetes is an entirely manageable disease, but early detection and treatment are essential for your child’s health and their ability to avoid long term diabetes complications.