What Is Juvenile Diabetes?

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases affecting people around the world, although it is far ore prevalent in western countries. For example, nearly 10% of the population in America alone suffers from diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed, and an estimated 2-3% of the population is undiagnosed for this condition. As many of you know, diabetes is categorized in a few different ways – Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. However, many people also use the term “juvenile diabetes”, but what does that mean?

Short Answer: Juvenile diabetes is an older term form Type 1 diabetes, named because this diabetes variation tends to develop or appear in teenagers or children. This form of diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes and cannot be cured, only managed.

What is Diabetes?

Before we get into juvenile diabetes, and the various ways that it differs from Type 2 and gestational diabetes, it is important to have a general understanding of this condition. Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the pancreas does not create enough insulin for the body’s needs, or when the body itself cannot use the insulin that the pancreas has created. Insulin is the critical hormone in the body that controls the level of blood sugar (glucose) in our bodies. When the balance of insulin and glucose is skewed, it can result in everything from fainting, cognitive confusion, lightheadedness and muscle weakness to higher risks of obesity and cardiovascular damage.

Diabetes is broken down into three main types, based on the specific causes and symptoms of the condition.

Type 1 Diabetes: As mentioned above, Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes, as it primarily appeared in young adulthood or the teenage years. There is no defined cause for Type 1 diabetes, but doctors and researchers believe that it is one or a combination of the following factors – genetics, viral infections and immune system malfunction that attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for juvenile diabetes (Type 1 diabetes), but lifelong management is required to maintain a healthy, normal life. Most people need to regularly inject themselves with insulin to maintain proper blood sugar levels, although alternative treatments include dietary regulations, exercise and regular monitoring of your blood sugar levels.

Type 2 Diabetes: This is the far more common form of diabetes, in which the body becomes unable to properly use the insulin that the body is creating. This conditions tends to be associated with obesity, lack of activity and a poor diet, particularly one that is high in processed foods and sugar. While there isn’t a known “cure” for Type 2 diabetes, the management strategies do not always include injecting yourself with insulin (although some people opt for this, along with diabetic medications).

If you have Type 2 diabetes, the best approach is to switch to a low-fat, high-fiber diet, add regular exercise to your routine and regularly check your blood sugar levels. The symptoms of Type 2 and Type 1 are quite similar, although it can take years for Type 2 diabetes to be diagnosed, as the symptoms tend to be mild, until a serious complication occurs.

Gestational Diabetes: This third and least-discussed form of diabetes affects roughly 20% of pregnant women while they are carrying their child. This form of diabetes is caused by the many changes that occur in your body while pregnant, including the accumulation of sugar in the blood, due to hormonal fluctuations. In some cases, the pancreas can increase its insulin production to counter the high blood sugar level, but for the other 20%, gestational diabetes develops.

Dietary restrictions and close monitoring of the blood sugar level for the remainder of the pregnancy is then required, as gestational diabetes does raise the risk of future Type 2 diabetes diagnoses for both mother and child. Fortunately, gestational diabetes is almost always temporary, allowing the mother to return to her non-diabetic state after giving birth and allowing her hormones to re-balance.

Juvenile Diabetes – A Thing of the Past?

Although Type 1 diabetes is technically called “juvenile diabetes”, more and more young children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is caused by unhealthy diets and poor physical fitness. Up until 20 years ago, the number of Type 2 diabetes cases in children was remarkably small, but those numbers have continued to climb, in conjunction with the “epidemic” of childhood and juvenile obesity. Between 2001 and 2009, researchers found that the occurrence of Type 2 diabetes in teenagers had increased by 21%. So, while the term juvenile diabetes (Type 1 diabetes) might be a thing of the past, its presence in juvenile generations is greater than ever before!

References:

  1. American Diabetes Association
  2. Diabetes Research Institute Foundation
  3. World Health Organization
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About the Author:

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois. He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, an arts nonprofit based in Denver. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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