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Symptoms of Juvenile Diabetes

Read about they symptoms of juvenile diabetes, and learn what to do if you suspect your child may have it.

Increased thirst is a common symptom of juvenile diabetes. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Increased thirst is a common symptom of juvenile diabetes.

Symptoms of Juvenile Diabetes

Juvenile diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile-onset diabetes and type 1 diabetes) is a chronic disease of the pancreas that requires consistent monitoring and care. Although it can technically develop at any age, it usually develops during childhood or adolescence. Symptoms of juvenile diabetes often appear rapidly, over a matter of weeks, so it is important to be able to identify them to avoid serious, disabling complications.

Causes and Complications of Juvenile Diabetes

Juvenile diabetes affects the pancreas, a gland that produces insulin, a vital hormone that regulates the metabolism of sugar. In children with juvenile diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce adequate amounts of insulin, and the body is unable to convert sugar into energy. Since cells in the body depend on this process of sugar conversion, or metabolism, to function properly, children with juvenile diabetes can suffer a host of debilitating symptoms, including sugar build-up in the bloodstream, which can seriously damage all the organs in the body.

As of 2010, there is no known cure for juvenile diabetes. And the exact cause of the disease remains unknown, though it is thought that genetics, as well as autoimmune and viral factors play a role. Diabetes-related complications can include blindness, kidney and heart failure, as well as nerve, foot, bone and skin damage.

Symptoms of Juvenile Diabetes

While juvenile diabetes can be severely debilitating and even life-threatening, with proper treatment and care, children with the disease can live long and healthy lives. The key is to identify the symptoms and seek immediate medical help.Common symptoms of juvenile diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Inadvertent and sudden weight loss, despite increased appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Fatigue, lethargy and/or drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweet or wine-like breath


Sometimes the first sign of juvenile diabetes in infants and young children may be a severe diaper rash caused by a yeast infection. In adolescents, the onset of juvenile diabetes may halt menstruation.

Juvenile Diabetes Tests, Diagnosis and Treatment

Because the risks of untreated juvenile diabetes are serious and potentially life-threatening, do not wait to seek medical help. To confirm the diagnosis, doctors will often recommend screening tests such as a random (non-fasting) blood sugar test and a fasting blood sugar test. Doctors may also recommend a urinalysis, an insulin test and/or a C-peptide test. If the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor may recommend further tests to determine the type of diabetes (diabetes 1 or 2) to prescribe the appropriate treatment.Because of the severity of the disease, children may require hospitalization.

Long-term treatment for juvenile diabetes include ongoing self-monitoring of blood sugar, regular injection of insulin, regular exercise, regular medical check-ups and a healthy, nutritious diet high in vegetables, fruits and grains and low in fats and calories. As children grow, their bodies will change, and they may require adjustments in their treatment plans, so expect shifts in doses or types of insulin, as well as in dietary and activity needs. Also be sure to regularly check the body for injuries. Because diabetes often causes damage to the nerves and blood vessels, it decreases the child's ability to feel injury, and an injury, especially of the foot, could go unnoticed.Since diabetes also impairs the immune system, decreasing the body's ability to fight infection, such injuries can rapidly develop an infection that may end up requiring amputation.

Currently, the only potential cure for juvenile diabetes is a pancreas transplant. This procedure, however, is considered risky. While a successful pancreas transplant will eliminate the need for insulin, those who undergo the procedure will require a lifetime dose of immune-suppressing drugs that can cause serious side effects.

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