What You Need To Know About Diabetes in Children

Recent studies have shown that diabetes is on the rise in Singapore, particularly amongst young kids. Dr Abel Soh, endocrinologist at Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre points out what parents should take notice of and give tips on how to prevent your kids from getting this unwelcomed disease.

Mummyfique: Can you share about the occurrence of diabetes in children in Singapore?
For children aged 10 and younger, if they have diabetes, it is usually type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin and the affected children have to be treated with insulin injections.

However, in recent year, type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents has become an emerging problem in many developed countries, including Singapore. About 20 years ago, type 2 diabetes accounted for only five to 10 per cent of childhood diabetes. Today, that number has increased to at least 30 per cent and this rise is fuelled largely by the obesity epidemic.

What are some of the telltale signs that parents should watch out for that suggest their child might have diabetes?
Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children usually develop very quickly – over a period of weeks. These signs and symptoms include increased thirst and frequent urination, extreme hunger, weight loss, fatigue, irritability or behavioural changes, and blurred vision.

Type 2 diabetes in children, on the other hand, may develop gradually and there are children with type 2 diabetes who do not have any signs or symptoms. Others experience increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, or slow-healing sores.

If the children have symptoms suspicious for diabetes, parents should bring them to the doctor for blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Can you share a bit about what parents should expect if their child is diagnosed with diabetes?
Treatment for type 1 diabetes in children includes insulin therapy, blood sugar monitoring, healthy eating and regular exercise. Insulin treatment can be in the form of injections (2 to 4 injections a day) or infused into the body via a mechanical pump. Treatment for type 2 diabetes in children involves healthy eating, regular exercise, often tablet medications and blood sugar monitoring.

The frequency of visits to the doctor can be once every 1 to 2 months immediately after diagnosis of diabetes and once every 3 to 4 months thereafter.

What are some ways parents can prevent their child from getting diabetes?
Healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent type 2 diabetes in children. Parents should encourage their children to eat healthy foods by offering them foods that are low in fat and calories and focusing on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is very important for children who are overweight or obese to lose excess weight. Help your child make permanent changes in his or her eating and exercise habits.

Parents should also encourage their children to be more physically active. Sign up for a sport or dance lessons, or look for active things to do together.

Dr Abel Soh is an endocrinologist at Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre was part of the panel that shared more about diabetes trends and how to protect our children from diabetes at the product launch of AIA Singapore’s Diabetes Care. Dr Soh has had extensive clinical experience in the managing patients with diabetes mellitus, thyroid diseases, lipid disorders, calcium disorders and osteoporosis, obesity, adrenal and pituitary diseases,

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