What is juvenile diabetes?

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Learn more about this autoimmune disorder.

Between five and 10 percent of diabetics suffer from juvenile diabetes. It is different from type 2 diabetes, and is sometimes also called insulin-dependent diabetes.

What is Juvenile Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder. Our bodies are equipped with immune systems to help fight off infections. Unfortunately, sometimes something goes wrong with a person's immune system, and the body attacks healthy cells as if they were infections or invaders. In juvenile diabetes, the body's immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. Our body needs insulin in order to process sugars from the foods we eat. Because the body is destroying these insulin-producing cells, the body will stop producing insulin. A person with type 1 diabetes must take insulin in order to survive.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes often start very slowly, and a person may not notice them at first. If not treated, the symptoms then become more severe. Symptoms include:
  • Increased hunger and thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, and/or vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent skin, vaginal or urinary tract infections

What will Your Doctor Do?

If you or your child have the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, your doctor will first run some tests to make an accurate diagnosis. This will include blood tests to check your blood sugar levels, and may include urine tests and other tests.

If a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is made, your doctor will then make a treatment plan. The most important part of treatment will be taking insulin, usually in the form of injections. Since the body is not producing its own insulin, this is essential. The doctor will probably have you meet with a nutritionist to come up with a meal plan. Frequent testing of your blood sugar levels will be necessary. Exercise is a big help in keeping blood sugar levels under control.
What Happens if Juvenile Diabetes is Not Treated?

If a person with type 1 diabetes is not treated, there can be serious, life-threatening results. These include retinopathy (a vision disorder), kidney damage and poor blood circulation that can result in risk of injury, infection and other problems. If you suspect that you or your child have type 1 diabetes, it is important that you see your doctor right away.

So, what is juvenile diabetes? It is an autoimmune disorder that will require you to make some lifestyle changes. For more support, visit the American Association of Diabetes Educators or the American Diabetes Association.

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