Diabetes Center for Children

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in children. In fact, it is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, according to the American Diabetes Association. It is estimated that 1 in every 400 children in the U.S. develops type 1 diabetes.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that converts sugars into energy and allows energy to enter the cells of the body to provide fuel.

Type 1 diabetes may cause the following:

What causes type 1 diabetes?

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known, but it is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Autoimmune conditions can sometimes be seen in families. There is currently nothing that can be done to prevent the autoimmune process that attacks the beta cells or to prevent the onset of diabetes. If your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it’s important to understand that there is nothing you could have done to prevent it.

What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes often appears suddenly during childhood ‒ including infancy. The following are the most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Your pediatrician should test your child’s blood sugar levels. Once the test confirms diabetes, treatment must begin immediately.

How is type 1 diabetes diagnosed?

Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in childhood and adolescence, but it can be diagnosed at any age. Your child’s doctor will order laboratory tests, including blood and urine tests, to diagnose diabetes. Laboratory tests can show the positive diabetes antibodies that are present with type 1 diabetes.

Complications from type 1 diabetes

Complications that may result from type 1 diabetes include:

Without treatment, this excess sugar in the blood can cause severe damage to the body and can be fatal.

How is type 1 diabetes treated?

Those with type 1 diabetes will require a brief hospital stay while their blood sugars are controlled and a treatment plan is created. Your child will need to take daily insulin injections to replace the insulin her body no longer makes on its own. A healthy diet and regular exercise also help control blood sugar levels.

Specific treatment for type 1 diabetes will be determined by your child's diabetes team and may include:

Reviewed by: Melissa Rearson, MSN, CRNP
Date: Dec. 2013

  • Print
  • Share

Contact Us