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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Diabetes in Children and Adolescents


The theme of this year's World Diabetes Day campaign is Diabetes in Children and Adolescents.

Diabetes has a unique impact on children and their families. The daily life of children is disrupted by the need to monitor blood glucose levels, take medication, and balance the effect of activity and food. Diabetes can interfere with the normal developmental tasks of childhood and adolescence, which include succeeding in school and transitioning to adulthood.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the rising prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.

Early diagnosis and early education are crucial to reducing complications and saving lives. The healthcare community, parents and guardians must join forces to help children living with diabetes, prevent the condition in those at risk, and avoid unnecessary death and disability. Support must also be given to caregivers and to school personnel. In this way, children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can reach adulthood with as little adverse impact as possible on their well-being. For children with diabetes in developing countries the situation at present is bleak.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. It can strike children at any age, including pre-school children and even toddlers. Yet diabetes in children is often diagnosed late, when the child has diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), or it is misdiagnosed completely.

Type 1 diabetes is growing by 3% per year in children and adolescents, and at an alarming 5% per year among pre-school children. It is estimated that 70,000 children under 15 develop type 1 diabetes each year (almost 200 children a day). Of the estimated 440,000 cases of type 1 diabetes in children worldwide, more than a quarter live in South-East Asia, and more than a fifth in Europe.

Type 2 diabetes was once seen as a disease of adults. Today, this type of diabetes is growing at alarming rates in children and adolescents. In the US, it is estimated that type 2 diabetes represents between 8 and 45% of new-onset diabetes cases in children depending on geographic location. Over a 20-year period, type 2 diabetes has doubled in children in Japan, so that it is now more common than type 1. In native and aboriginal children in North America and Australia, the prevalence rate of type 2 diabetes ranges from 1.3 to 5.3%.

In many parts of the world, insulin, the main life-saving medication that children with diabetes need to survive, is not available (or is available but remains inaccessible for reasons of economy, geography or constraints on supply). As a consequence, many children die of diabetes, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

Those closest to the child - family, school staff, family doctor - may not be aware of the ominous signs. The World Diabetes Day 2007 and 2008 campaigns set out to challenge this and firmly establish the message that ‘no child should die of diabetes'.

Source: World Diabetes Day - Year of the Child
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