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Deadly Diabetes that Even Doctors Can Miss

Unlike type 2 diabetes, which usually affects adults, type 1 diabetes is a life-threatening disease that occurs in children who do not produce enough insulin. 

Once called juvenile diabetes, diabetes mellitus is more common in children than adults – with most children being diagnosed before their fifteenth birthday.

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune disorder that lasts through adulthood. Blood sugar levels have to be kept under control with proper diets and treatments including insulin injections.

Over 120,000 Australians are affected by type 1 diabetes.

With type 1 diabetes, children’s blood sugar levels can rise to dangerous levels – leading to a build-up of acidic ketones in the bloodstream and ultimately DKA – or diabetic ketoacidosis. DKA can cause several symptoms that parents and health care providers might miss. 

If left untreated, DKA can cause diabetic coma and death.

Fortunately, testing for type 1 diabetes is very easy. A simple urine and blood sample will show whether or not you or your child has diabetes.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes since they are often so mild, or similar to common illnesses like the flu, that doctors may miss them.

If your child is showing any of the following symptoms and you feel like something isn’t quite right, follow your gut and insist on type 1 diabetes testing.

Children with type 1 diabetes often lose weight quickly and have an increased appetite and thirst. They may have to urinate very frequently, suffer from severe fatigue, irritability, sudden vision changes, and possible bedwetting. Other symptoms include heavy breathing and a distinct fruity, sweet breath.

If your child is tired all the time and eating and drinking lots of water, but is still hungry or thirsty – you should pay attention to the other possible symptoms as well.

Sudden behavioural changes, along with some of the physical symptoms, are another sign that your child might have a medical problem and isn’t just cranky or “acting out.”

You know your child better than any health care provider because you know their personalities, eating and drinking habits, and daily routine. This is one childhood disease that parents can push for a clear diagnosis by being aware of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and alerting your doctor to the problem.

Children and adults can lead long, healthy lives with proper diagnosis and treatment. But it is crucial that you watch for possible symptoms in children to avoid complications of dangerous DKA.


Source: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Australia:

American Diabetes Association:

Image courtesy of Phaitoon /