Seven lakh children hit by juvenile diabetes

As the world is observing Diabetes Day on Sunday, it is pertinent to delve deep into the symptoms, treatment and cure of the malady.  Incidentally, this year marks 100 years since the discovery of insulin – a treatment that saved millions of lives around the world.

Over seven lakhs children and adolescents suffer from this condition. Sadly, most of the children are dying before or soon after diagnosis. Let us learn more about this dreaded condition in children on the occasion of World Diabetes Day.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.

Different factors, including genetics and some viruses, may contribute to type 1 diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence, it can develop in adults as well.  Despite active research, type 1 diabetes has no cure. Treatment focuses on managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications.

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. Usually, the body's own immune system – which normally fights harmful bacteria and viruses – mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing (islet, or islets of Langerhans) cells in the pancreas. Other possible causes include genetics exposure to viruses and other environmental factors. Once a significant number of islet cells are destroyed, you'll produce little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that comes from a gland situated behind and below the stomach (pancreas).

Glucose – a sugar – is a main source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues. Glucose comes from two major sources: food and your liver. Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin. Your liver stores glucose as glycogen.

When your glucose levels are low, such as when you haven't eaten in a while, the liver breaks down the stored glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose levels within a normal range. In type 1 diabetes, there is no insulin to let glucose into the cells, so sugar builds up in your bloodstream. This can cause life-threatening complications.

Over time, type 1 diabetes complications can affect major organs in your body, including heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Maintaining a normal blood sugar level can dramatically reduce the risk of many complications. Eventually, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening. Dehydration, weight loss, diabetic ketoacidosis damage your body. Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can harm the nerves and small blood vessels in your eyes, kidneys, and heart. They can also make you more likely to get hardened arteries, or atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Presently, as our country experiences reduction in poverty, better communication and technology, greater awareness among health care personnel (HCP), and more trained specialists, this situation appears to be improving, with earlier diagnosis and increased survival.


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