Learn about Diabetes, its Signs & Symptoms, & How to Manage

Teen Healthy Body – Nutrition – Diabetes

What is Diabetes

Written by Crystal Anthony, M.Ed.

  |  Reviewed by Hina J. Talib, MD

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that causes problems for the body to process food into the fuel the body needs. Most of the food you eat is broken down by the body into sugar (glucose), which is then released into your bloodstream. Your pancreas will then be activated to release insulin. Insulin will allow the blood sugar to go into your cells to produce fuel/energy. If you have diabetes, your body either has a problem making enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin that the body has made. If too much sugar stays in your bloodstream it can present serious problems over time, such as kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage, and vision impairment. Is diabetes something that can affect children? Yes, children, just like adults, can develop diabetes at all ages. A blood test can show if you have diabetes. There are 2 types of diabetes you may see in kids.

Type 1 Diabetes 

Type 1 diabetes makes blood sugar levels higher than normal due to an autoimmune response that inhibits the cells of the pancreas to produce insulin. Therefore, kids with type 1 diabetes need insulin to keep their blood sugar within a normal range as the body is not doing this on its own. 

Who gets it: 

Type 1 diabetes typically occurs in children and young adults, but can be seen in all ages. Those who have a parent or sibling with the disease may have an increased chance of developing it. 

Signs and symptoms: 
  • Increased thirst 
  • Extreme hunger 
  • Frequent urination which may lead to bedwetting
  • Losing weight without trying 
  • Having frequent infections of your skin, urinary tract, or yeast infections
  • Blurred vision 
  • Irritability and mood changes 
  • Upset stomach/vomiting 
  • Fatigue
How to manage Type 1 Diabetes: 
  • Taking Insulin via insulin injections or an insulin pump
  • Blood sugar monitoring through a blood glucose meter or CGMS (continuous glucose monitor system) 
  • Eating a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein 
  • Having a routine of regular physical activity

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when your pancreas may not produce enough insulin and/or your body does not use the insulin the pancreas produces effectively. Glucose is then not as effective to enter the cells to supply energy to the body. 

Who gets it: 

Type 2 diabetes can affect all ages, as we see it in children, adults, and the elderly. There has been a rise in type 2 diabetes due to the increase in childhood obesity. Obesity causes insulin resistance, so it makes it harder for the insulin to work as well to keep blood sugars stable. Type 2 diabetes seems to follow a genetic predisposition. Many may have a family member with the disease, are born to a mother with diabetes while pregnant, or have other medical problems that affect the way the body produces insulin. 

Signs and Symptoms (these often develop slowly):
  • Excessive thirst and drinking 
  • Frequent urination which may lead to bedwetting
  • May experience feeling tired/fatigued 
  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck 
  • Increased hunger 
  • Unintended weight loss 
  • Blurry vision 
  • Sores that may be slow to heal 
  • Frequent infections 
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet 
How to manage it: 
  • Eating healthy with a balance of protein, fat, and modified carbohydrates 
  • Weight management 
  • Exercise/ keeping active 
  • Diabetes medications or possibly insulin therapy if needed


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