Maybe a kid you know always eats a snack during a soccer game or goes to the
school nurse before lunch to get a shot.
If you have a friend or a classmate like this — or this sounds just like
you — you're not alone. Thousands of kids all over the world do stuff like
this every day because they have type 1 diabetes (say: dye-uh-BEE-tees).
What is it? Let's find out.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose
(say: GLOO-kose), a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. Your body needs
glucose to keep running. Here's how it should work:
Insulin helps the glucose get into the body's cells.
Your body gets the energy it needs.
The pancreas is a long,
flat gland in your belly that helps your body digest food. It also makes insulin.
Insulin is kind of like a key that opens the doors to the cells of the body. It lets
the glucose in. Then the glucose can move out of the blood and into the cells.
But if someone has diabetes, the body either can't make insulin or the insulin
doesn't work in the body like it should. The glucose can't get into the cells normally,
so the blood sugar level gets too high. Lots of sugar in the blood makes people sick
if they don't get treatment.
What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
The two major types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.
In type 1 diabetes (which used to be called insulin-dependent diabetes
or juvenile diabetes), the pancreas can't make insulin. The body
can still get glucose from food but the glucose can't get into the cells where it's
needed. Glucose stays in the blood, which makes the blood sugar level very high and
causes health problems.
To fix the problem, someone with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin through
regular shots or
an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes is different from
type 1 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still makes insulin, but the insulin
doesn't work in the body like it should and blood sugar levels get too high.
No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has
something to do with genes. Genes
are like instructions for how the body should look and work that are passed on by
parents to their kids.
But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. Something else has
to happen — like getting a viral infection — for a person to develop type
Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and
What Are the Signs of Type 1 Diabetes?
When people first have diabetes, they usually:
pee a lot because the body tries to get rid of the extra blood
sugar by passing it out of the body in the urine (pee)
drink a lot to make up for all that peeing
eat a lot because the body is hungry for the energy it can't
get from sugar
lose weight as the body starts to use fat and muscle for fuel
because it can't use sugar normally
feel tired a lot because the body can't use sugar for energy
Getting treatment for diabetes can stop these symptoms from happening. A doctor
can do tests on a kid's blood to find out if he or she has diabetes.
If your doctor thinks you might have type 1 diabetes, he or she might have you
visit a doctor called a pediatric
endocrinologist (say: pee-dee-AHT-trik en-doh-krih-NAHL-eh-jist), a type
of doctor who helps kids with diabetes, growth problems, and more.
How Is Type 1 Diabetes Treated?
Kids who have type 1 diabetes have to pay a little more attention to what they're
eating and doing than kids without diabetes. They need to:
take insulin as their doctor prescribed
eat a healthy, balanced diet with accurate carbohydrate
check blood sugar levels as prescribed
get regular exercise
Kids with diabetes will have to do special things sometimes, like eat a snack on
the bus during a long school trip. Or they might have to wake up earlier than everyone
else at a sleepover to take their insulin and have some breakfast to keep their blood
sugar levels under control.
What Else Should I Know?
Although this might seem like a lot of work, the good news is that new products
and equipment can help make it easier for kids to take care of their diabetes. Scientists
are looking for ways to make it easier to check blood sugar levels and give insulin.
They're also trying to find ways to get insulin into the body without shots. And there's
hope that one day a cure will be found.
Even though kids with diabetes have to do some special things, it doesn't keep
them from doing the stuff they love. They can still play sports, go out with their
friends, and go on trips. So if you have a friend with diabetes, let him or her know
you can deal with it. Being friends is all about having fun together, not having a