One of my dearest friends has Type 1 Diabetes and truth be told, it scares me. Lori-Anne, an IRL friend and blogger behind Typecasted Diabetes, taught me that Type 1 Diabetes is the lesser known autoimmune version of diabetes, much like the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) I have is the lesser known autoimmune version of arthritis. She’s taught me about Type 1 Diabetes symptoms but still it scares me. It scares me how quickly her blood sugar can spike or go low, it scares me how something as seemingly innocent as shivers or tingling sensations can indicate something more, it scares me hearing what scares her.
Lori-Anne and I have come to understand each other on a deeper level because of the similarities between our diseases though our immune systems attack different areas of our bodies. We both were diagnosed with autoimmune diseases out of the blue, due to “stressful” health events but no prior family history. We both fear especially for the kids who endure our diseases and their parents who have to bear witness to it.
It is one of my greatest fears that my kids will inherit my RA. Of course, I know what symptoms to look for in my kids. But what about parents who do not already know the symptoms? Or parents that don’t know how a seemingly innocent sickness can act as a trigger that starts the immune system to attack it’s own body?
Because of my love and respect for Lori-Anne and my desire to raise awareness of autoimmune diseases, I was thrilled when Julie from The Hallway Initiative agreed to guest post for me to educate us on what parents need to know about Type 1 Diabetes symptoms. The symptoms will surprise you, I know they did me, separately the symptoms seem like no big deal but together they can indicate trouble. Recognizing Type 1 Diabetes symptoms makes all the difference in getting prompt and effective treatment. Please welcome Julie to Mom’s Small Victories!
Note: This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you. Please also note that we are not medical professionals but sharing our experiences with these diseases to simply raise awareness. Please seek a professional medical opinion.
What Parents Need to Know About Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms
By Julie Moore, The Hallway Initiative
“Okay, Mom, we need to talk,” the Urgent Care doctor said as he came back into the exam room where I was sitting with my oldest spark plug. “We got Turbo’s bloodwork back. He has Type 1 Diabetes, and because he’s so sick, we’re going to take him by ambulance to an intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital.”
The doctor went on quickly to explain that Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in dangerously-high blood sugar. Although there is no known cure, the condition can be managed through daily injections of insulin. Without insulin, blood sugar cannot get into the body’s cells, and the body begins to starve.
I don’t know what I’d expected the doctor to say that day, but the diabetes diagnosis came as a complete shock. Before that terrible June afternoon in 2013, I didn’t know what diabetes really was. I honestly felt like the worst mother in the world for not having realized sooner just how sick my little guy was. Weren’t there signs I should have recognized?
Although Turbo had been experiencing extreme thirst and frequent urination, the two most common symptoms of diabetes, at eight years old, he was old enough to take care of them without my knowledge and yet too young to notice that something was wrong and to tell me what was happening. However, there were other less common symptoms that I had noticed, though I didn’t realize at the time that everything was connected and that they all indicated Type 1 Diabetes.
The sad truth is that Type 1 Diabetes is much more prevalent today than it has ever been before. But despite its somewhat-frequent occurrence now, it still often goes unnoticed by parents and medical personnel alike until the situation becomes dire, as in Turbo’s case. While it would be wonderful if pediatricians and family doctors began routinely testing for it, the reality is that doctors simply cannot test every patient for every possible illness at every visit. The best thing we can do right now as parents is to acquaint ourselves with the symptoms so that we can better detect when things go awry.
As I mentioned earlier, extreme thirst and frequent urination are the two most common symptoms of diabetes. Since it’s not always easy to recognize those signs in elementary and pre-teen children, here is a list of less-common symptoms that, when combined, could indicate diabetes. The more severe the blood-sugar buildup and the longer that diabetes goes undetected, the more severe the symptoms will become. Note that the last two symptoms are indications of Diabetic Keto-Acidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication of diabetes that requires immediate medical intervention. This was the stage that Turbo had reached when we took him to Urgent Care.
Changes in vision
Rapid weight loss
Vomiting without fever (symptom of DKA)
Panting/gasping for breath (symptom of DKA)
Although a diabetes diagnosis can be very scary, and as sad as it is that it is becoming much more common, the good news is that most doctors are now aware of it and know what to do for diabetic patients. If you suspect that either you, your child, or your loved one is suffering from diabetes, the best thing you can do is to take action. Delaying medical treatment won’t make it go away, but seeking help as soon as you suspect something’s wrong can help prevent serious complications.
If you or someone in your family is diagnosed with diabetes (or any other devastating disease), there is hope! I have met some amazing people as a result of my son’s diagnosis. From doctors to medical equipment specialists to other Type 1 parents, my life is definitely enriched by having experienced the life-changing diagnosis of diabetes. Living with an autoimmune disorder is never easy, but it is very possible to live a full and vibrant existence!
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Julie Moore is a wife and stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to four amazing spark plugs, the oldest of whom has Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease. When not busy helping her husband on his startup or teaching the kids, she enjoys writing about autoimmune issues and encouraging others during times of hardship on her new blog, The Hallway Initiative. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
As a parent, how many times have your kids said they’re excessively thirsty (in my house, always right before bed) or they’re hungry (in my house, 15 minutes after I cleaned up the kitchen from dinner) or that their legs hurt (in my house, we often say they’re “growing pains”)? Did you ever imagine they could be Type 1 Diabetes symptoms? In most cases, they are simply kids being kids but it’s imperative that parents know all the Type 1 Diabetes symptoms so that you can seek medical attention if your child exhibits several of these symptoms.
Autoimmune disorders like Type 1 Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis are not diseases to take lightly. Learning to identify Type 1 Diabetes symptoms is vital. Autoimmune disorders can progress quickly and prompt medical treatment can make all the difference in the patient’s outcome. Though they are chronic and incurable, effective treatments, understanding how the illness impacts your body and a supportive community provide a better life and hope for thriving with autoimmune disorders and chronic illness. Be informed and stay well!