Pediatric Diabetes Fact Sheet

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells of the body to use glucose, which is a form of sugar in the blood. In the presence of insulin, glucose is able to enter the cells and fuel them. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, the main source of fuel for the body.

Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance, when the body does not properly use insulin. Ninety to 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. It is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity and ethnicity. Type 2 diabetes is beginning to occur more and more in children as less active lifestyles and gaining excess body weight become more common in youth.

What are the symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes?

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Constant hunger
  • Weight loss without improving the diet or increasing exercise
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling very tired
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing wounds or sores
  • Nausea

How is diabetes diagnosed?

  • A fasting plasma glucose test measures blood glucose after the child has gone at least eight hours without eating.
  • An A1C test (short for hemoglobin A1C, Hb A1C, or glycated hemoglobin A1C) measures the average blood glucose control for the past two to three months. The child does not have to be fasting for this test.
  • An oral glucose tolerance test measures blood glucose after a child has gone at least eight hours without eating and two hours after he/she drinks a glucose-containing beverage.
  • In a random plasma glucose test, the doctor checks blood glucose without regard to when the child last ate.

Managing diabetes

Diabetes care for children should focus on special medical, educational, nutritional and behavioral issues. Children diagnosed with diabetes will work closely with their physician and diabetes care team to help them monitor their diabetes. An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in diabetes care. A pediatric endocrinologist specializes in the care of children with diabetes and other hormonal diseases.

The goal of diabetes management is to keep blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as possible. Diabetes can be kept under control through blood glucose testing, taking insulin, blood glucose-lowering medications (which are only effective in Type 2, not Type 1 diabetes), healthy eating, physical activity and close cooperation of all the child's caregivers, including the school.

Treating diabetes at Kentucky Children's Hospital

The team of specialists at Kentucky Children's Hospital pediatric endocrinology treats more than 600 children with Type 1 diabetes per year. The team understands that diabetes affects all aspects of a child's life including emotional and physical health. This is why the team includes pediatric endocrinologists, nurse practitioners who specialize in pediatric diabetes, certified diabetes educators (CDEs), a registered nurse, and a social worker to help kids and their families deal with every aspect of diabetes. The UK Pediatric Endocrinology team also has received a grant to travel to certain clinics in Eastern Kentucky to provide follow-up care to children with diabetes.

To find out more

UK HealthCare
Our researchers and physicians are making advances with diabetes. Call for more information or to schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist.
859-257-1000 or 1-800-333-8874 (toll free) 

National Diabetes Education Program
A partnership of the National Institutes of Health offering education, clinical trials and free publications.
1-800-438-5383 (toll free) 

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Page last updated: 8/7/2015 12:47:48 PM