The importance of early identification of type 1 diabetes is very important, says a physician at Pennsylvania Medical Society (PMS).
Dr. Ralph Schmeltz, incoming president of PMS said that type 1 diabetes mellitus is vastly different from type 2.
Formerly called juvenile diabetes because it appears more often in children and adolescents, it strikes both children and adults suddenly, progresses quickly, and lasts a lifetime. It is neither preventable nor reversible using current therapies, though active research continues.
When the pancreas stops producing insulin due to a process which destroys insulin-making cells, that's type 1, said Schmeltz.
People with type 1 diabetes must take multiple injections of insulin daily or receive a continuous infusion of insulin through a pump.
Over the long-term, if type 1 diabetes (as well as type 2) is not adequately treated, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other tissues or organs resulting in severe and often life-threatening complications.
Schmeltz emphasized the importance of early recognition and diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, adding that "If type 1 goes undetected at the onset, or is inadequately treated, it may result in a potentially deadly complication called diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA."
DKA occurs when the body, due to lack of insulin, breaks down fat for energy instead of sugar.
When this happens, the body produces acids, called ketones, which in high are very dangerous and can lead to coma or even death, especially in young children.
Schmeltz urges patients to be alert to the telltale signs of both types of diabetes, which are-Frequent urination, Excessive thirst, Lower than normal energy, Tiredness and weight loss, Increased appetite, Sudden vision changes.
In addition, these symptoms are particular to type 1-Fruity odour on the breath, Heavy or laboured breathing, Stupor or unconsciousness.
Children with type 1 diabetes may also be restless, apathetic, and have trouble functioning at school. If you notice these signs, talk to a doctor immediately.
Schmeltz noted that while there's often an underlying genetic predisposition to type 1 diabetes, "there is not uncommonly, an inciting 'event' that sets it off. Mumps is one illness that can inflame the pancreas and act as the trigger. Even a severe 'cold' or other stress can set it off. Once insulin production stops, the symptoms appear."
"I would urge patients to do three things. Number one - know the signs and symptoms, particularly the frequent urination and excessive thirst. Number two - get help and if it's not diabetes, great. But if it is, treatment can begin immediately. And number three - it's manageable. With appropriate guidance, diet and medication, a child with type 1 diabetes can do just about any age appropriate activity.
"The take away message: If your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, don't feel guilty and don't overprotect. It's manageable," he added.