It takes a family to raise a diabetic

2017-07-25 06:00


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HAVE you checked? Those are usually the first words of the day for parents who have children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

That’s because monitoring blood sugar levels regularly throughout the day, but especially before or after meals, is non-negotiable.

Hearing the diagnosis for the first time can be overwhelming and will leave any parent and child with mixed emotions — it’s unfair, it’s stressful, it’s scary. Yet there is nothing that any parent could have done better to prevent their child from having type 1 diabetes. Unlike type 2 diabetes, it has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle, it is an auto-immune disease. It is estimated that there are now more than half a million children aged 14 and younger living with type 1 diabetes, according to the seventh IDF Diabetes Atlas.

According to Dr Ntsiki Molefe-Osman, a diabetes medical advisor at Lilly South Africa, T1D is a disorder of metabolism caused by the body’s immune system which attacks the cells in the pancreas, which produces insulin.

“Children are not born with it, rather it develops over time and there is usually a genetic predisposition. In children, T1D presents commonly at around 14 years of age and younger. This means that T1D is a lifelong disease, it is serious, and managing it needs to be done diligently as poor control of the condition today will have lifelong repercussions. When a child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, so is the entire family who all need to adapt to a new lifestyle.” “The importance of good glycaemic control can’t be emphasised enough,” said Dr Ntsiki Molefe-Osman. The basic 101 of managing and preventing the complications of T1D is careful daily management of blood glucose and sustaining tight glucose control as close to normal levels as possible. “Diabetes is a progressive disease which left unchecked will cause organ damage.”

What you do for your diabetic child today and the responsibilities you teach your teen in managing T1D, will influence the quality of life they can expect to live later in life,” he said.


People living with T1D do not produce insulin, so it needs to be replaced with insulin injections. Insulin moves blood sugar into body tissues where it is used for energy. When there is no insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. This is referred to as high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, and is dangerous with many side effects. When the blood sugar is stabilised with insulin treatment, these symptoms go away.


While a diabetes diagnosis for your child may come as a shock and will mean that lifestyle adjustments will have to be made, remember that with consistent control and the support of a health-care provider, people living with type 1 diabetes can live full lives.


Managing Type 1 diabetes in your child takes a lot of courage and determination. Imagine the mountain that a child faces knowing that injections will be part of their daily routine.

It is important to help your child believe that with the right control and responsible approach, they can do whatever they want to do. Establishing good habits early, providing a support structure and ensuring that your child understands why good control is important, is vital. — Supplied

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