What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in a Child?
Diabetes symptoms in children are important to know. Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to long-term health problems, and the idea that your child might have it can be scary. If you suspect diabetes, compare what your child is experiencing with these diabetes symptoms in children.
Diabetes Symptoms in Children and Teens: Where Do They Come From?
To put the symptoms of diabetes in context, it helps to understand what diabetes is. Diabetes is a disease involving a problem with insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. Insulin is what lets glucose (the sugar needed by the body for energy) into the cells of the body. If the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or if it doesn’t use its insulin efficiently, glucose (the sugar needed for energy) can’t get into the cells. When this happens, glucose remains stuck in the bloodstream. Blood sugar levels then become too high, a condition called hyperglycemia.
Hyperglycemia can lead to many serious health consequences. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed, the better children and teens can manage it and prevent other health problems from developing.
The primary diabetes types for kids and teenagers are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 was formerly known as juvenile-onset diabetes because it is far more common for this type to develop in youth and young adults than it is in adults; however, that term is no longer widely used because it’s possible for type 1 to develop in adulthood. In Type 1, the body can’t make insulin because the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes used to be diagnosed almost exclusively in adults. A major risk factor for this type is lifestyle: a sedentary life with poor nutrition, sugary drinks, and overweight or obesity puts people at risk for type 2 diabetes. Now, because of increasing childhood obesity and inactivity, the rate of type 2 diabetes in children and teens is rising.
Diabetes causes specific symptoms because of what it does in the body. The kidneys must work overtime to try to filter out the extra glucose in the blood. The process draws fluid from the body. Hyperglycemia damage throughout the body as the sugar-laden blood flows through all systems. It’s this process that is behind the diabetes symptoms in children and diabetes symptoms in teens.
Diabetes Symptoms, Juvenile
Unfortunately, diabetes symptoms in children aren’t always present. Especially in type 2 diabetes, they can be absent or very mild, developing slowly over the course of months or even years. Type 1 diabetes is different. Typically, symptoms appear suddenly and progress in a matter of weeks at the most. Whether diabetes symptoms appear quickly or gradually, they are distinct.
Common diabetes symptoms in children and teens include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger, especially after eating
- Excessive tiredness
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Fruity breath
In addition to thirst, hunger, urination, fatigue, numbness, and blurred vision, diabetes symptoms in teens and children can include:
- Slow-healing sores or cuts
- Frequent infections
- Dry, itchy skin
- Weight gain (or, sometimes, weight loss)
- Flu-like feeling
- Dry, itchy skin
- Formation of dark patches on the skin
Diabetes Symptoms in Toddlers and Children: The 4 Ts
When you’re worried about your child no matter what his or her age, it can be hard to remember a list of symptoms. To help parents easily remember the key symptoms of diabetes in children, Diabetes UK developed the 4 Ts:
If your child increases trips to the bathroom (for babies and toddlers, look for more saturated diapers that need to be changed often), needs to drink a great deal but thirst isn’t quenched, is always tired, and is thinner due to weight loss, a trip to the doctor to check for diabetes would be wise.
If your child of any age—baby through teen—develops any of the above symptoms, diabetes is a possibility. Your doctor will be able to confirm diabetes or lay your concerns to rest ("How to Diagnose Diabetes: Criteria, Tests for Diabetes Diagnosis").
Peterson, T. (2022, January 4). What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in a Child?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/diabetes/main/what-are-the-symptoms-of-diabetes-in-a-child