For Ellen, the first sign was the night wakings. Her 10-year-old son, who always slept soundly until then, was suddenly up and down during the night. Three to four times a night, she would hear him fumbling for the light switch in the bathroom, and then listen as the toilet would flush. Other times, she would hear him filling a glass of water from the sink and guzzling it down.
The first two nights, she wrote it off to the normal anxieties of boyhood. Everyone has trouble sleeping now and then, right? And he’d probably been eating too much pizza or chips at the homes of friends. All that salt would make anyone thirsty. Normal stuff.
When the night wakings went on a third night, however, Ellen, a single mother of two in the U.S., stopped making excuses and got busy Googling. Symptom searches all came up with one word: “diabetes.” No way, she thought. No one in our family has diabetes.
She called her pediatrician, who told her to bring her son in. Two hours and one blood glucose test later, Ellen and her son were on the way to the ER.
This family’s experience, while unique to them in the details, will be played out in different ways 70,000 times across the world this year, according to the International Diabetes Federation. More than 70,000 mothers, fathers or caregivers will think no way, but will ultimately accept that their child’s symptoms do, in fact, signal Type 1 diabetes.
While excessive thirst and frequent urination are common symptoms, there are many others that signal Type 1 diabetes in children. Here are some of the others:
- Increased appetite. A child who is normally easily sated will be hungry constantly.
- Unexplained weight loss. Even though the child seems to be eating all the time, he or she is dropping pounds.
- Sugar in urine. Two hundred years ago, doctors tested for diabetes by tasting the urine, because, when the pancreas is failing, it becomes sweet, as the body struggles to dispose of the sugars it can’t get into the cells.
- Breath that smells fruity. Again, the body is struggling to excrete sugar in any way it can.
- Changes in vision. If a child complains of blurred or changing vision, diabetes is often suspected.
- Tiredness. The body is expending extra energy trying to deal with its internal crisis. A child who has Type 1 diabetes, therefore, may be sleepy or physically exhausted for no reason.
All of the above may come on quickly, and if a parent or caregiver is observant, a quick trip to the doctor can avert more serious symptoms that can arise is symptoms go undiagnosed.
Once diagnosed and treated, Type 1 diabetes in children is easily managed and compatible with a full, active, healthy life. But, the diagnosis comes first. If you suspect your child is exhibiting any symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, quickly consult a doctor, or take him to an emergency room.