This holiday season, learn the ABCs of pediatric diabetes
Insulin is an important factor in our everyday lives because it’s fuel for our bodies, keeping us energized. But for some of us, our bodies don’t produce it at all, don’t produce enough of it or don’t properly process it, which leads to diabetes.
For children younger than 10 years old, Type 1 diabetes is the most common, however people are getting Type 2 diabetes younger and younger due to eating habits and lack of exercise. "Diabetes" might seem like a scary word for parents, but it’s quite manageable with the proper care team. And at Carle, with an ever-growing Pediatrics department, we’re working to keep patients in the heart of the Champaign-Urbana community.
In 2019 alone, Carle added not one, but two full-time pediatric endocrinologists. Endocrinologists focus on the common diseases and disorders of the endocrine system. So after a Primary Care provider diagnoses a patient with diabetes, they meet with a specialist or in this case, Mahmoud Hamdan, MD, and Hector Lantigua, MD.
“Diabetes isn’t always obvious in some older children, and it might take a number of visits with a doctor to present itself,” Dr. Hamdan said. “A lot of times after a lab is done, it’s when a patient learns they have diabetes.”
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and to bring attention to it, here are some symptoms to keep an eye out for:
- Weight loss (even with quite an appetite)
- Constantly thirsty
- Urinating more
- Stomach pains
“A lot of parents think their kids just have a stomach bug,” Dr. Hamdan said. “The younger the child, it’s sometimes hard for them to explain what they are feeling. They just know they don’t feel like themselves.”
Both Drs. Hamdan and Lantigua are fathers, so taking care of children is a no-brainer for them. The endocrine system side of things, it’s an underserved sub-specialty.
“Access to specialized medical care is a big issue for most kids and their families. If they have to travel any great distance because of where they live, it’s a barrier for receiving appropriate care,” Dr. Lantigua said.
A normal, fasting blood sugar for a child is less than 120 mg/dL. If you’re worried about your child’s health, talk with their doctor.
“Each age comes with its challenges. From small children who don’t want to eat or have an unpredictable eating pattern to one who’s frequently sick with a minor illness that affects blood glucose levels,” Dr. Lantigua said.
“For teenagers, they might be afraid or embarrassed having to check their glucose levels or be given insulin and feeling different from their peers. It might lead them to not take the proper steps for their condition.”
After kids and teens visit with Drs. Hamdan and Lantigua, they learn the ins and outs of how to manage their diabetes.
“We start educating them. What diabetes is? How to treat it. The younger the patient, the parents learn for them,” Dr. Hamdan said. “They learn about insulin, carbohydrates, counting carbs, etc. We discuss treatments and come up with a plan moving forward. We also work with their schools so they know what to do.”
A child with diabetes can live a normal life. To put it into perspective for some, to check your blood sugar at home, it will take all of five minutes.
Some additional tips for parents and kids dealing with diabetes are:
- Look at what’s out there in terms of food availability, the content of the food, the type of carbohydrate in the food and the portion size
- Maintain a balanced diet
“I have often found people to have minor, but consistent, misunderstandings of food labels, and it can have a great impact on glucose control,” Dr. Lantigua said.