What is Diabetes?

There are different types of diabetes. In all types of diabetes, the main problem is that there is not enough insulin in the body.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that travels in your child’s blood and tells the body how it should be nourished.

  • After the food your child eats is digested, it is turned into fuel and absorbed into the blood.
  • The blood moves the fuels to all of your child’s organs to keep them running smoothly.
  • The most important fuel is a sugar, called glucose.

Insulin helps glucose move from blood into the cells. If your child does not make enough insulin, the sugar stays in the blood.

  • If your child’s body cannot use glucose for fuel, it will use other types of fuel (mostly by burning fat and muscle). This is why children have high levels of glucose in their blood and lose weight when they get diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes in children is type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes happens when your child’s cells that make insulin are destroyed and he makes almost no insulin. If you child has type 1 diabetes, he will have to take insulin injections to replace the insulin his body can no longer make. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in the U.S. Until recently it has mainly affected adults. Today, type 2 diabetes is more common in children because of the higher number of overweight children.

Children get type 2 diabetes when two things happen at the same time:

  1. They lose some of their ability to make insulin.
  2. The cells that need insulin cannot react to insulin as much as they would normally.  This condition is called insulin resistance and it often happens in children who are overweight. 

Children with type 2 diabetes sometimes need insulin treatment, but many of them can be treated with medicines that improve insulin resistance.