Young patients learn to cope with diabetes

Young diabetics are learning how best to cope with the condition with an education programme run by Newham University Hospital.

Children and their families are taught about diabetes, the role of insulin, how diet and activity can affect blood sugar levels in addition to carbohydrate counting and insulin dose adjustments.

The ‘Carbohydrate Awareness for adjusting Insulin Doses’ sessions are provided by the Children and Young Persons Diabetes Team at Newham University Hospital NHS Trust. The sessions are held during the school holidays to make them more convenient.

The programme is designed to help children and their families to manage diabetes on their own. They are trained to adjust their insulin doses based on the type and quantity of food, and pre-meal blood sugar levels. This has been shown to improve their diabetes control, and prevent both short term and long term diabetes complications.

These children are less likely to have low or high blood sugar levels, and in turn that will help them to grow normally and achieve more at school and in sports. It gives them the flexibility to enjoy different types of food without the need to stick to a regimented food habit. The children are also taught what to do when blood sugars are either low or high helping to reduce the associated health risks.

Teenagers with Type 1 Diabetes, which occurs due to a lack of insulin production, can face or develop additional difficulties while dealing with this life-long condition.

Some try to hide their medical condition from their peers and friends. Other adolescent psycho-social issues can also complicate their diabetes control. They have a higher risk of being admitted to hospital with very high blood glucose levels and ketones resulting in a life threatening situation called diabetic keto-acidosis (DKA).

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If they have low blood glucose levels (often called hypo’s) they can feel hot, shaky, weak, hungry and become confused. If untreated they can become unconscious and have a seizure.

Dr Abdul Moodambail, Consultant Paediatrician, said: “Children and adolescents can develop insulin dependent Diabetes. Symptoms to watch for include: drinking lots, urinating frequently (maybe waking up in the night or bed wetting), being very hungry and eating more, and weight loss. Commonly these symptoms are accompanied by tiredness and lethargy. If you observe changes in your child and they have some of the above symptoms make an appointment with your GP.”