Medical Officer of Health for St. James, Dr. Marcia Johnson-Campbell, is encouraging parents of children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes to educate them about the illness.
“Teach them about the medication; teach them about managing their diet. It may be difficult in terms of restricting them from some of the things they would want to eat but cannot eat, but with support and education we find that a lot of children who may be affected will learn to cope,” Dr. Johnson-Campbell said in an interview with JIS News.
She added that all parents must encourage children to practise a healthy lifestyle from early, as this could prevent the onset of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
“There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Diabetes is diagnosed when there is high blood sugar levels, because of the body’s inability to remove it from the blood,” Dr. Johnson-Campbell explained.
Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, which is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.
With Type 2 diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin or does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.
Dr. Johnson-Campbell noted that a child who has Type 1 diabetes will experience increased thirst; pass urine more often – those who are potty-trained may start bed- wetting; have increased hunger and experience weight loss.
Other symptoms of the illness in children include irritability, and in severe cases of the disease, their breath has a fruity smell, which is often the first symptom recognised by medical professionals.
This smell results from diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when the body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones, when it cannot produce enough insulin.
Dr. Johnson-Campbell noted that oftentimes, persons who are diagnosed with the illness have family members with diabetes.
She told JIS News that the treatment for diabetes is insulin, which is usually given by way of an injection that goes underneath the skin, and is administered once or twice per day. She highlighted that diabetes is not curable; however, it can be managed.
Dr. Johnson-Campbell said that managing the illness can involve counselling for children affected and their parents, as well as support groups that help persons to understand the illness.
She also emphasised that monitoring the diet of children with the illness and administering medication are very important.
Complications that can occur with diabetes include heart issues, high blood pressure, tingling and numbing of the hands and feet, kidney damage and vision problems.