Diabetes Mellitus is a condition which leads to high blood sugar levels. There are two types of Diabetes Mellitus: Type 1 and Type 2. Insulin is an important hormone that is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas, an organ that is located near the stomach. Insulin allows glucose in the bloodstream to enter the body cells to be converted into energy.
In Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, the body is unable to produce enough insulin. In Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, the body is unable to utilise the insulin effectively (insulin resistance). As a result, the glucose stays in the blood and the body cells cannot convert it to energy.
There are more children with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus than Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Singapore1. However, the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in children is increasing due to a widespread increase in
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is an autoimmune condition in which the beta cells of the pancreas are destroyed by the body's own immune system. It can occur at any age but more commonly in children and young adults. The exact cause of Type 1 Diabetes is still not clear. It is likely to be due to both genetic factors and environmental triggers which include viruses.
The cause of insulin resistance is usually obesity even though it may also be caused by some medications. These children often have other family members who also have Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
Most of the time, children with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus may not display any symptom or the symptoms may develop gradually. Diagnosis is incidentally made during a health screening.
Good control of Diabetes Mellitus in children and adolescents is very important to prevent them from having early complications to the kidneys, eyes and nerves.
Insulin injections are the only treatment available and there are different ways in which the injections can be delivered. These include the needle and syringe, insulin pens and insulin pumps. There are also different types of insulin with different duration of actions (ultra short-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting and long-acting insulin). The insulin regime will be customised according to the child's lifestyle and eating habits.
The diagnosis can be made with an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). In this test, the child will drink an orange-coloured sugar drink. Blood glucose (sugar level in the blood) will be tested before the drink is taken and 2 hours thereafter.
Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus will include diet control, oral medications and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, there are some children whose blood glucose is significantly high and they may need insulin injections to better control their condition.
Even though there is no cure for Diabetes Mellitus, there have been major advances in treatment. With proper care and management, a child with Diabetes Mellitus can continue to lead a healthy and active life. Managing Diabetes Mellitus as a child or adolescent is not easy. As such, motivating them is important to ensure good diabetes control and support from family, friends, school and healthcare workers is very important.
Our Child and Adolescent Diabetes Support Group organises an annual camp, motivational courses and parent support groups for diabetic children and their families under our care. For more information on our support group, please click here.
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