There’s a huge misconception that only adults are affected by diabetes. The truth is that this a common chronic childhood disease. Medical experts say that diabetes can occur in children at any age including toddlers and infants.
According to a 2014 report by the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 497,000 children worldwide are diagnosed with Diabetes (Type-1) worldwide. An increasingly sedentary lifestyle among children is linked to the growing number cases every year. Worried that your child might be at risk? Read on to understand diabetes better and what actions you can take to protect your children.
1. What’s diabetes?
In simple terms - it’s a condition when the body fails to produce sufficient insulin (the hormone that converts sugar and starch into energy). Another instance of diabetes is when the body becomes immune or resistant to the effects of insulin.
2. The two types of
Type-1 is known as insulin-dependent or childhood-onset diabetes as it’s usually hereditary. It’s an auto-immune disease; meaning when the system attacks tissues and organs, the pancreas starts to fail - producing little to zero insulin. Without externally-administered insulin shots, the patient’s health deteriorates fast and can be fatal.
Initially reported to be prevalent in adults, Type-2 now affects both children and adolescents. Type-2 occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin. While genes may cause Type-2 diabetes, lifestyle factors are the bigger contributors.
3. How are obesity and diabetes linked?
Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are major contributors of Type-2 diabetes among children. Statistically, Malaysia has the highest obesity rate in Asia, and according to a 2015 report from the National Health Morbidity Survey (NHMS 2015) more than 7% of children in Malaysia under the age of five have been identified as overweight.
4. Top three myths about diabetes
Myth: It can be cured. Truth: For Type -1, there is no ‘cure’ at present - it can only be managed. For Type-2, it can be prevented or delayed through a healthy lifestyle.
Myth: You can prevent Type-1 diabetes by removing sugar from your diet. Truth: Sugar has very little effect on why Type-1 diabestes occurs as this is mostly linked to genes. However, unhealthy dietary habits especially high consumption of refined sugar can make the disease worse. This is more so in Type-2 which is linked to obesity.
Myth: It can spread by touch or sharing food and drinks with children affected by the disease. Truth: Diabetes is not a contagious disease and does not spread like the common flu.
5. Common symptoms
Usually, children with Type-1 will have obvious symptoms but those affected with Type-2 may not show signs immediately as it usually develops over time. The best way to detect Type-2 diabetes is by getting yourself checked if you notice unusual or persistent symptoms.
What to look out for:
Excessive hunger and/or thirst
Bed wetting regularly
Abnormal mood swings
Unexplained weight loss
Increase in fungal infections
Discolouration or pigmentation in certain areas of the body.
6. Tips to manage diabetes
Type -1 The disease can affect children mentally and emotionally. As disruption occurs in their day-to-day activities – difficulty in interacting with their peers in school and social environments is common. To manage this, a good way forward is to coordinate with the school and organise an education session for understanding among other children. It also equally important to equip other parents and teachers with knowledge about the disease in the case of an emergency. Medically - insulin therapy is recommended by medical professionals. It helps to replace the insulin shortage in the body. A healthy diet with a regular intake of complex carbohydrates and regular exercise will also help in the management of the disease.
Type -2 Children affected by Type-2 diabetes can enjoy a good quality of life if their condition is managed well by parents or caretakers. In the case of Type -2, diabetes keeping a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a moderate weight and exercising regularly is the most important. Regular doctor follow-up is also advised as risks of developing co-diseases with diabetes is high when it starts young.
7. Can I do more as a parent?
A good disease preventive measure is to ensure the child is exposed to a healthy lifestyle from a young age. How? Try programmes like AIA Vitality. It’s a unique insurance and health programme that actively supports and rewards you and your family for making healthy choices every day.
Secondly, having a good protection plan is crucial. The last thing you want to worry about is delays, bills or scramble to find ways to support your child should the situation occur. A solid insurance plan will ensure you not just coverage but protection against financial burdens of critical illness. What should you consider? The AIA Critical Illness Protection is a good place to start because when long-term recovery is required, your income may also be affected.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Diabetes Atlas, sixth edition| The global burden| November 2014
Malaysian Diabetes Association |www.diabetes.org.my Ministry of Health Malaysia |www.moh.gov.my World Health Organisation | www.who.int/diabetes/global-report Pendidikanpesakit.myhealth.gov.my www.webmd.com http://www.momjunction.com
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.