The symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes are not noticeable overnight. It takes a matter of weeks before a patient or parent realizes something is wrong. For my 2-year old son with diabetes, it took about six weeks before things got to the point where we finally went to the hospital. The reason it took six weeks to realize that he was showing signs of the disease were twofold. First, he is our only child. We had never raised a two-year old before. The symptoms came on so gradually that we didn't notice a drastic change in behavior. Therefore, we chalked these changes up to a phase that he was going through. Second, because he was so young, he could not communicate what he was feeling.
Not recognizing sooner that my son was displaying symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes still saddens me. If you or your child is displaying many of the symptoms in this article, see your doctor immediately.
The thirst that a person has when they are in the early stages of Type 1 Diabetes is almost unquenchable. My son began by simply asking for water a little more often. He eventually began asking for water at all times.
It was actually the thirst that finally made us realize that he had a serious problem. The last couple of days before we took him in he couldn't sleep more than two hours without waking up and crying for water.
The thirst is caused by the body's need to flush out excess sugar and ketones that have accumulated due to the body's lack of adequate levels of insulin to turn sugar into energy. The constant thirst leads us to the next symptom of Type 1 Diabetes.
When I say frequent urination, I am not talking about needing to go to the bathroom every now and then. As a new diabetic gets closer to the critical stage, there is a feeling that you are ALWAYS in the bathroom. For a two-year old this was an eye-opener. He began by waking up with heavy diapers. The last night before we took him in he wet not just his diaper, but every inch of sheets on a queen sized bed.
Frequent urination can provide a quick way to check on the potential of Type 1 Diabetes. At any pharmacy you can find Ketone Sticks, which measure the ketone levels in the blood. Ketones are the byproduct of burning fat, and an untreated diabetic accumulates ketones at dangerous levels. All you do with a ketone stick is urinate on the end of it and see if the stick changes colors. A non-diabetic will show negative for ketones. A diabetic will show the presence of ketones, and most likely at very high levels.
The next symptom of Type 1 Diabetes is extreme hunger. When not enough sugar is getting into the cells, the body thinks it needs to ingest more food in order to get more sugar. However, due to the lack of insulin, this new food still does not satisfy the hunger, so the body continues to want more.
Unexpected Weight Loss
Five months before my son was diagnosed he had a checkup and weighed 29 pounds. On the day of diagnosis he was still 29 pounds. While he did not lose any weight, the fact that a two-year old did not gain a pound in a five month span was disturbing.
Since the body cannot process sugar for energy it goes to it's next source, fat. It begins to burn fat at such a high rate that rapid weight loss will occur.
Burning fat is an inefficient way for the body to create energy. But since an untreated diabetic is mostly burning fat, the person's activity becomes very sluggish. My son was a very social child until he started showing the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes. But slowly he began to withdraw from social situations. He would grab his cup of water and stand in the corner while watching others play. He simply did not have the energy to join his friends.
Blurry eyesight is another symptom of Type 1 Diabetes. However, this can be difficult to notice in young children that cannot express that they can't see as well as they used to. But if you or your child's vision seems to quickly get worse over the course of a few weeks, and you have some of these other symptoms you should be aware that the eyesight problems could be the result of Type 1 Diabetes.
The easiest way to determine if you or your child is a diabetic is to simply measure the level of glucose in the blood. This can be done with a glucose meter. If you know a diabetic (and most of us know someone with Type 2 Diabetes) borrow their glucose meter, prick a finger, and measure the glucose level. It takes a matter of seconds. A normal level is around 90-100, but if diabetes is beginning to take shape, the glucose level will be much higher than that. If your level is higher seek treatment immediately.
Because the disease progresses gradually over the course of a few weeks, people are usually near critical when they are admitted to the hospital. If you suspect diabetes, get to a hospital and get checked out. This disease is manageable, but is not to be taken lightly. Knowing the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes will give you a head start.