At 13 years old, Camille was an accomplished ballerina. Spending up to five hours a day in the studio while maintaining straight A’s. As a homeschooled student, Camille figured her constant thirst and exhaustion were pretty much normal for anyone as driven as she was to one day dance with a major company. Besides, the studio was warm and everyone eagerly waited for water breaks between lessons and a chance to go to the bathroom. While the other girls had to watch every morsel of food they put into their mouths, Camille felt fortunate that she was actually starting to lose weight while maintaining a good diet. “You have the metabolism of a hummingbird!” her ballet teacher would marvel.
However, Camille’s unquenchable thirst and weight loss concerned her mother, when put together with other noticeable symptoms – the constant bathroom runs, the exhaustion; and at times, itchy skin (which Camille assured her mom was from wearing tights). She knew diabetes ran in her family – but her sister developed diabetes after her second pregnancy, and her aunt always was sedentary and overweight. But Camille was an active, athletic, and usually very energetic child. Convinced Camille might be diabetic, Camille’s mom called her pediatrician for an appointment. She wanted to find out if childhood diabetes was any different than adult diabetes.
Type 1 and Type 2
Diabetes is a category of metabolic diseases for when a person develops high blood sugar (glucose). The two primary types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to create antibodies that target the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Over time, the body is unable to produce insulin, and the patient must find other means to take in insulin each day, every day, for the rest of their lives.
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas continues to produce insulin, but the body doesn’t use it properly, causing a person to become insulin resistant. As such, the pancreas will start to go into overdrive to correct the deficit, becoming worse over time. Eventually, the pancreas will stop making insulin altogether and the patient will require insulin injections.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes both share similar symptoms, many of which Camille presented. These include excessive thirst, weight loss, frequent and increased urination, and weight loss. Additional symptoms include blurred vision, fatigue and longer than usual healing times for even the most minor cuts and bruises. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, which develops over time, Type 1 diabetes can present symptoms quite rapidly. That’s because Type 1 is an auto-immune disease that has nothing to do with lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Type 2 may be genetic in nature in some instances, but many outside influences – including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and an unhealthy diet – all factor into a diabetic diagnosis. That’s why a diagnosis of pre-diabetes may jump-start a patient into a more conscientious, healthy lifestyle, whether it means eating healthier, exercising more, or losing weight. Type 1, however, must be managed throughout one’s lifetime, and while exercise and healthy diet are important, the requirement for medical management never diminishes.
Adult vs. Childhood Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes – also known as “juvenile diabetes” presents most commonly in tweens aged 12-14, but also though young adulthood through the mid-20s. As soon as a person is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, they are placed on insulin, which they will have to take for the rest of their lives. With this diagnosis comes a great deal of education and counseling: not only does the child need to understand how their diet and meal frequency needs to change, they must become self-managing by learning to check blood sugar levels and to advocate for themselves when their parents cannot. Parents and guardians must also accept this paradigm shift by educating other family members on the many nuances of caring for a child with diabetes, offering healthy food options, working closely with other family members, babysitters, caregivers, and schools; and, most importantly, being supportive, available, and understanding with your child.
Adult diabetes – usually Type 2 – also requires lifestyle changes and education, but in this case, the disease is progressive and can be managed or even countered with proper attention and medical guidance. In fact, being pre-diabetic for an overweight or obese person might be enough justification for an insurance company to approve nutritional counseling or even weight-loss surgery.
Looking back on Camille’s diagnosis, Camille’s mom started to remember a number of instances while on patrol where she would have to attend to someone passed out from diabetic shock, and had taken special training to render assistance while waiting for the EMTs to arrive at the scene. However, she never imagined her healthy, active daughter would one day too be diagnosed with diabetes. Understanding the differences between Types 1 and 2 diabetes, she felt more prepared to not only be a better police officer, but also a more prepared and educated mom.
If you believe your child might have the symptoms of diabetes, you should seek out medical attention immediately. The medical professionals at Children’s Health Care of Massachusetts (CHC Mass) can help you determine the diagnosis and develop a lifetime course of action for your child. Contact your preferred CHC location in Newburyport or Haverhill to schedule a comprehensive health consultation today.
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