Juvenile diabetes

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Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy.

Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which your immune system destroys insulin-making cells in your pancreas. These are called beta cells. The condition is usually diagnosed in children and young people, so it used to be called juvenile diabetes.

A condition called secondary diabetes is like type 1, but your beta cells are wiped out by something else, like a disease or an injury to your pancreas, rather than by your immune system.

Both of these are different from type 2 diabetes, in which your body doesn’t respond to insulin the way it should.


Signs are often subtle, but they can become severe. They include:

Extreme thirst

Increased hunger (especially after eating)

Dry mouth

Upset stomach and vomiting

Frequent urination

Unexplained weight loss, even though you’re eating and feel hungry


Blurry vision

Heavy, labored breathing (your doctor may call this Kussmaul respiration)

Frequent infections of your skin, urinary tract, or vagina

Crankiness or mood changes

Bedwetting in a child who’s been dry at night

Signs of an emergency with type 1 diabetes include:

Shaking and confusion

Rapid breathing

Fruity smell to your breath

Belly pain

Loss of consciousness (rare)


Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar, or glucose, into your body's tissues. Your cells use it as fuel.

Damage to beta cells from type 1 diabetes throws the process off. Glucose doesn’t move into your cells because insulin isn’t there to do the job. Instead, it builds up in your blood, and your cells starve. This causes high blood sugar, which can lead to:

Dehydration. When there’s extra sugar in your blood, you pee more. That’s your body’s way of getting rid of it. A large amount of water goes out with that urine, causing your body to dry out.

Weight loss. The glucose that goes out when you pee takes calories with it. That’s why many people with high blood sugar lose weight. Dehydration also plays a part.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If your body can't get enough glucose for fuel, it breaks down fat cells instead. This creates chemicals called ketones. Your liver releases the sugar it stores to help out. But your body can’t use it without insulin, so it builds up in your blood, along with the acidic ketones. This mix of extra glucose, dehydration, and acid buildup is known as ketoacidosis and can be life-threatening if not treated right away.

Damage to your body. Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can harm the nerves and small blood vessels in your eyes, kidneys, and heart. They can also make you more likely to get hardened arteries, or atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Risk factors

Family history. Anyone with a parent or siblings with type 1 diabetes has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition.

Genetics. Certain genes indicate an increased risk of type 1 diabetes.

Race. ...

Certain viruses.

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Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes increases your child's risk of developing conditions such as narrowed blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke later in life.

Nerve damage. ...

Kidney damage. ...

Eye damage. ...



Develop and stick to a healthy eating and activity plan.

Test your blood sugar and keep a record of the results.

Recognize the signs of high or low blood sugar and what to do about it.

Give yourself insulin by syringe, pen, or pump.

Monitor your feet, skin, and eyes to catch problems early.

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