Even the question "What is juvenile diabetes" can be intimidating to contemplate. Quite literally this term means diabetes that happens in children and teens.
There are two main types of diabetes mellitus and they are type 1 and type 2. Historically, type 1 was by far the prominent type of diabetes in young people. In fact, if you were to ask, what is juvenile diabetes in the past the answer would have been type 1 diabetes – the terms were used interchangeably.
Today however there has been a dramatic increase in the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in children and teens. This increase has prompted a more exacting naming system to differentiate the types as type 1 juvenile diabetes and juvenile diabetes type 2.
"In type 1 juvenile diabetes, a person's pancreas produces little or no insulin. Although the causes are not entirely known, scientists believe the body's own defense system (the immune system) attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas" (1).
In juvenile diabetes type 2, the pancreas is able to produce insulin, but the body either does not make enough or resist its effects. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, following a poor diet and leading an inactive lifestyle.
Symptoms of juvenile diabetes are similar for type 1 and type 2. The major difference is that symptoms for type 1 tend to develop suddenly where as type 2 symptoms develop more gradually and are therefore more difficult to detect.
Symptoms of type 1 juvenile diabetes include:
Symptoms for juvenile diabetes type 2 include:
Without timely treatment, juvenile diabetes can lead to serious health complications in the future including: blindness, heart attacks, damage to the kidneys and nervous system and loss of limbs due to poor circulation.
Because the pancreas no longer is able to produce insulin in type 1 juvenile diabetes, insulin must be administered on a daily basis through insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump that is worn throughout the day.
In juvenile diabetes type 2, the pancreas does still have some ability to produce insulin but oral medications and lifestyle changes such as following a juvenile diabetes diet, increasing physical activity and controlling body weight may be needed to enhance treatment and manage symptoms.
Having to face the question of what is juvenile diabetes can be scary but with the right information and by working closely with your doctor, this disease can be managed and a young person can go on to lead a happy and productive live.
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