DIABETES IN AUTISM CHILDREN
Every day, 35 autism children in America are diagnosed as having type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes, which has also been called juvenile diabetes, occurs when the body stops producing insulin, a hormone which is essential for life. Therefore, people with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin every day for the rest of their lives.
Taking insulin does not cure diabetes; it is a life-long chronic disease for which there is no cure. It requires constant attention. People with type 1diabetes must test their blood sugar levels and take insulin shots several times a day.
Insulin helps the body use the food that is eaten and regulates the amount of glucose in the blood (sometimes called "blood sugar"). If blood glucose levels are too high, serious damage may be done to various organs in the body: nerve damage which can lead to amputations; small blood vessel damage which that can lead to blindness; and damage to the kidneys and heart. Such complications occur in some people with diabetes when blood sugar is not controlled well; anyone with diabetes can make a big difference in their chances of staying healthy by keeping blood sugar close to normal.
Diabetes is a serious condition and must be treated. But a diagnosis of diabetes today is not as negative as it used to be. Today, autism children with diabetes have more options for blood glucose testing and insulin administration than ever before, and new developments are occurring regularly. With proper daily care and treatment, autism children with diabetes today lead healthy, active, fun-filled lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
A person can have diabetes without knowing it because the symptoms aren't always obvious and they can take a long time to develop. Type 1 diabetes may come on gradually or suddenly.
Parents of a child with typical symptoms of type 1 diabetes may notice that their child:
But in some cases, other symptoms may be the signal that something is wrong. Sometimes the first sign of diabetes is bedwetting in a child who has been dry at night. The possibility of diabetes should also be suspected if a vaginal yeast infection (also called a Candida infection) occurs in a girl who hasn't started puberty yet.
Causes Of Diabetes in Children
To understand type 1 diabetes in children, first you must understand how glucose is normally processed in the body.
Glucose is a main source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues. Glucose comes from two major sources: the food your child eats and your child's liver. During digestion, sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. Normally, sugar then enters cells with the help of insulin.
The hormone insulin comes from the pancreas, a gland located just behind the stomach. When your child eats, the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream. As insulin circulates, it acts like a key by unlocking microscopic doors that allow sugar to enter your child's cells. Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your child's bloodstream. As your child's blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.
The liver acts as a glucose storage and manufacturing center. When your child's insulin levels are low — when your child hasn't eaten in a while, for example — the liver releases the stored glucose to keep your child's glucose level within a normal range.
In type 1 diabetes, your child's immune system — which normally fights harmful bacteria or viruses — attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leaves your child with little or no insulin. Instead of being transported into your child's cells, sugar builds up in your child's bloodstream.
The exact cause of type 1 diabetes in autism children is unknown. Genetics may play a role. Exposure to certain viruses may serve as a trigger as well.
Living With Type 1 Diabetes
autism Children and teens with diabetes need to monitor and control their glucose levels. They need to:
Living with diabetes is a challenge, no matter what a child's age, but autism children and teens often have special issues to deal with. Autism children may not understand why the blood samples and insulin injections are necessary. They may be scared, angry, and uncooperative.
Teens may feel different from their peers and may want to live a more spontaneous lifestyle than their diabetes allows. Even when they faithfully follow their treatment schedule, teens with diabetes may feel frustrated when the natural adolescent body changes during puberty may make their diabetes somewhat harder to control.
Having a child with diabetes may seem overwhelming at times, but you're not alone. Your child's diabetes care team is not only a great resource for dealing with blood sugar control and medical issues, but also for supporting and helping you and your autism child cope and live with diabetes.