Know the warning signs of type 1 diabetes

The only way to catch type 1 diabetes is to be tested. Watching out for symptoms can make all the difference.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. It’s a good time for all of us including, parents, grandparents, daycare providers and teachers to review the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes (T1D).

The risks associated with T1D
  • Not being diagnosed early enough before complications become life-threatening.
  • T1D symptoms can be difficult to recognize.
  • Symptoms may be subtle at first and they may seem non-life threatening.
  • Common symptoms such as frequent thirst and frequent urination, weight loss and lethargy can mimic flu symptoms.
Warning signs of Type 1
  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent Urination
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Fruity odor on breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness, lethargy
  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Stupor, unconsciousness
The diabetes diagnosis that came out of nowhere

Recently, I had a conversation with a type 1 diabetic. Here is her diabetes story:

She remembered that at 12 years old she was sick a lot. Her symptoms, weight loss, frequent nausea thirst and urination went on for almost a year. It was not uncommon for her to drink liquids all day long and never feel that her thirst was quenched. Neither she nor her parents ever thought about diabetes. No one in her family had diabetes. Then, one unusual incident changed everything. While riding in a car, on a short trip across town, she uncontrollably wet her pants. Needless to say, for a 12-year-old that was an incredibly scarring moment. As humiliating as it was, it became the family’s wake-up call that something was seriously wrong. She was diagnosed with T1D.

General T1D information and statistics

T1D is a serious disease generally striking in childhood or young adulthood. Surviving means type 1 diabetics need to take insulin multiple times a day for the rest of their lives. If gone undiagnosed, diabetes can cause kidney failure and death.

According to National Center for Biotechnical Information & the National Institute of Health, the treatment of children with type I diabetes mellitus has dramatically improved since the introduction of insulin in 1922, yet significant acute mortality still remains.

The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation reports 5 million people in the U.S. are expected to have T1D by 2050, including nearly 600,000 youth. Between 2001 and 2009 there was a 21 percent increase in the prevalence of T1D in people under age 20.

Causes and treatment

Research findings printed in the American Diabetes Association Journals found:

  • There have been many attempts to explain the rise of childhood type 1 diabetes over the past 30 years. A common starting point has been the assumption that something new has entered the childhood environment, and early nutrition or infection has seemed the most promising areas of enquiry.
  • The only way to know if your child may have diabetes is to have them tested.
  • Treatment includes insulin prescribed by a healthcare provider. Insulin is not a cure but rather a management of the disease.

This November, take time to review the signs and symptoms of T1D it could help save life! For more on diabetes, prevention and self-management, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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