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Diabetes in Children and Adolescents

May 22, 2008
Diabetes is a widely seen chronic disease in childhood. It can attack children at any age, including pre-school children and even toddlers. Al though this is the case, diabetes in children is often diagnosed late, when the child has diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), or it is misdiagnosed totally.

In many parts of the world, insulin, the major life-saving medication that children with diabetes require to survive, is not available (or is available but remains unutilized for reasons of economy, geography or restraints on supply). Consequently, many children die of diabetes, specifically in low and middle-income countries. Those closest to the child like family, school staff, family doctor, may not have any knowledge about the initial indications.

The World Diabetes Day 2007 and 2008 campaigns desired to challenge this and deeply communicate the message that "no child should die of diabetes". Today, in excess of 240 million people worldwide are suffering from diabetes. Inside the next 20 years, this number is anticipated to advance to 380 million. Children are not secure from this global epidemic, with its unbearable and life-threatening complications.

Type 1 diabetes is rising by 3% per year in children and adolescents, and at a frightening 5% per year among pre-school children. It is estimated that 70,000 children under 15 are struck by type 1 diabetes each year (almost 200 children a day). Of the estimated 440,000 cases of type 1 diabetes in children across the world, more than a quarter reside in South-East Asia, and more than a fifth in Europe.

Type 2 diabetes was once perceived as a disease of adults. Today, this type of diabetes is advancing at shocking rates in children and adolescents. In the US, it is estimated that type 2 diabetes covers between 8 and 45% of fresh diabetes cases in children depending on geographic location.

Over a 20-year period, type 2 diabetes has doubled in children in Japan and as a result, it is more common than type 1. In native and aboriginal children in North America and Australia, the incidence rate of type 2 diabetes ranges from 1.3 to 5.3%.

Diabetes has a distinct effect on children and their families. The daily life of children is thwarted by the need to monitor blood glucose levels, undergo medication, and balance the impact of activity and food. Diabetes can disturb the normal developmental necessities of childhood and adolescence, which comprise succeeding in school and maturing to adulthood.

To assist the child and family cope, and to make sure the best possible physical and emotional child health is there, care should be provided by a multidisciplinary team having good awareness about pediatric issues. Back-up must also be given to caregivers and to school personnel.

In this way, children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can enter adulthood with as little adverse effect as possible on their well-being. For children having diabetes in developing countries the condition at present is poor.

The 2007 campaign aims to increase awareness of the surging prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. Early diagnosis and early education are of paramount importance to bringing down complications and saving lives.

The healthcare community, educators, parents and guardians must combine efficiently to assist children living with diabetes, prevent the condition in those at risk, and keep away unnecessary death and disability.
About the Author
Bangkok Hospital - 36 years of advanced medical technology and expertise, complemented with Thai hospitality and compassionate care. Includes the world-renowned Bangkok Heart Hospital and specializing in oncology, neurology and orthopedics. Some of the worlds most advanced minimally invasive diagnostics and treatment procedures are in place.
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