What is diabetes?
Diabetes is one of the most common hormone problems in children and teens. Hormones are substances made by one part of your body that serve a purpose in another part of your body. In the case of diabetes, the hormone is insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas
, which is located behind your stomach. Insulin's job is to regulate the way your body uses the sugar it takes in from food. If you have diabetes, your pancreas cannot produce insulin. The concentration of sugar in your blood will rise and can cause serious short-term and long-term health problems.
No one can tell just by looking at you that you have diabetes. Lots of teens have it. Some girls wear a special medical alert bracelet in case they get sick. If you have diabetes, let your school nurse, teachers, and coaches know so they can help if you need them. back to top
What's the difference between type I and type II diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes. Type II diabetes is called adult onset diabetes because it usually affects adults. Type II diabetes is usually caused by the inability of the pancreas to make enough insulin for the person's needs and it may be treated with insulin, but can also be treated with other types of medication. Type I diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes. It typically affects teens, who usually find out that they have it when they are between the ages of 10 and 14. This article is about type I diabetes. back to top
How do you get diabetes?
The experts don't know what causes diabetes. Some people think diabetes is an autoimmune disease
. In an autoimmune disease, your body is tricked into attacking part of itself. In the case of diabetes, the immune system
may attack the pancreas and destroy its ability to make insulin. back to top
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
The symptoms of diabetes usually come on suddenly over a period of days to weeks. The symptoms are the three Ps:
- polydipsia (also known as excessive thirst)
- polyuria (also known as excessive urination or peeing)
- polyphagia (also known as excessive eating)
But not every girl who has the three Ps has diabetes.
When you have diabetes, overeating may cause you to lose weight, not gain it. In girls and women, a yeast infection
that is severe and keeps coming back may also be a symptom. back to top
How can I find out if I have diabetes?
Your health professional can tell if you have diabetes by a simple blood test. That's because people who have diabetes have a very high blood sugar level. The best time to check the blood sugar level is first thing in the morning or two hours after a meal. Your health professional may also want to test your urine (pee) for sugar. back to top
How do you treat diabetes?
Treating diabetes means keeping your blood sugar at a normal level at all times. Since the pancreas no longer produces insulin, you need to take insulin injections twice a day (or more) to control your blood sugar. Girls who do not
have diabetes can rely on the pancreas to sense the blood sugar level and release just the right amount of insulin throughout the day. A normal pancreas keeps blood sugar in the normal range before and after meals and whether you are exercising or resting.
Treating diabetes involves getting plenty of exercise
and balancing your diet with insulin injections. back to top
What are insulin injections?
If you have diabetes, your pancreas doesn't make enough insulin. But you can't take insulin in pill form. You need to take it in an injection, or shot. Once you inject the insulin, it works to keep your blood sugar level in the normal range.
Girls who have diabetes need to check their blood sugar level several times a day. They prick a finger and test a drop of blood with a special machine. The machine then tells them how much insulin to inject. It is very important that girls with diabetes check their blood sugar levels, especially during puberty
. This is because the body's insulin needs may change from day to day. back to top
What are the short-term health problems?
Girls with diabetes can be active and healthy. It is very important for a girl who has diabetes to keep her blood sugar at a normal level. If your blood sugar is too high, you could get very sick. You could even go into a coma
. If your blood sugar level is too low, you could also get very ill. This can happen if you inject too much insulin. That's another reason why it's so important to test the blood sugar level often. Some people with diabetes need to check their blood sugar five times a day to stay healthy. back to top
What are the long-term health problems?
Diabetes can cause long-term health problems. These include kidney problems, eye problems, and a loss of feeling in the arms and legs. Keeping your blood sugar level under control helps to prevent these problems. But even people who carefully manage their diabetes may develop kidney disease, vision problems, and decreased sensation. So be sure to see your healthy professional if you think you have diabetes or if you have it and are having trouble controlling your blood sugar level. back to top