Both type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, and type 2 diabetes are issues involving insulin in the body. Insulin is the hormone necessary for moving glucose (sugar) from the blood into cells, to allow the body to use it as energy. With type 1 diabetes, which is most often diagnosed in children and young adults, the issue is caused by an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes, which is more prevalent among adults but growing at a concerning rate among children as young as 10 years old, occurs when the body produces normal amounts of insulin, but its cells have become insulin resistant. Genetics can increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but lifestyle choices, including diet and exercise, play an equally important role.
A diagnosis is made with a blood or urine test. Type 1 diabetes must be treated with daily injections of insulin or a continuous infusion of insulin via a small machine that contains a pump and catheter. The treatment goal is to normalize blood sugar levels. This additionally requires monitoring the patient’s blood sugar several times a day, with a finger stick and home glucose meter. Maintaining a healthy, low-sugar diet and daily physical exercise or activity are also essential in managing type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed through blood testing. Many children and adolescents with high blood sugars are asymptomatic. Therefore, it’s important that those who’re at risk, which includes children who are overweight and those with a first or second degree relative with type 2 diabetes, be screened every 3 years, beginning at age 10. In some cases, type 2 diabetes may be managed with exercise and diet, but may also require insulin treatment or other medications.