Health professionals avoid calling it juvenile diabetes, but Type 1- diabetes used to go by that name because it’s most likely to occur in the young.
“Type 1- diabetes is usually a diabetes of childhood onset. The majority of Type 1- diabetics are below age 20,” says Dr. Cayce Jehaimi, pediatric endocrinologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
The disease follows two classic timelines: it’s commonly diagnosed either between ages five and seven or during adolescence. Unlike Type 2, it’s not linked to lifestyle or eating habits.
“One of the biggest myths is that sugar, eating sweets can cause Type 1- diabetes. That is not true. Type 1- diabetes is an immune-based disease. It’s where the body does not recognize the pancreatic cells as being part of the body,” says Dr. Jehaimi.
A child with diabetes will face additional obstacles in life. Because their pancreas doesn’t work at all, they have to monitor their blood sugar and take insulin. But it shouldn’t put them on the sidelines of life.
“We try to preserve as much as possible of all the things they should cherish and love about being a youth or a teenager or a toddler, preschool child. We can adjust insulin according to the activity level of the child. And ultimately, the goal is they will have a pancreas made artificially that can work very close to what the normal pancreas was doing,” says Dr. Jehaimi.
Kids do well with new technology and benefit from being open and honest.
“We try to encourage the children to feel like it’s okay that I have diabetes. It’s okay to say I’m taking medicine called insulin. This device is called an insulin pump,” says Dr. Jehaimi.
A lot is going on in terms of research, giving hope to kids growing up with Type 1- diabetes.“There’s been a lot on the artificial closed-loop system where the insulin delivery device can adjust itself according to the body’s need,” says Dr. Jehaimi.