Question: My 7-year-old grandson was diagnosed with diabetes and has to take insulin shots. Why can't he take pills like I do for my diabetes?
Answer: Your grandson has been diagnosed with a different type of diabetes than you. He has Type-1 diabetes and will need insulin shots. You have Type-2 diabetes so you do not require insulin shots. The two types of diabetes are very different.
Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease (reduced production of insulin due to a problem in the area of the pancreas that makes insulin) and Type-2 is usually due to lifestyle issues such as being overweight.
There are other differences, as well. Type-2 can be prevented and reversed with weight loss, healthy eating and exercise. Type-1 cannot be prevented or reversed.
Type-1 diabetes usually occurs in kids while Type-2 occurs most frequently in adults. There are exceptions, and nowadays, because of childhood obesity, kids are being diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes. Also, there are adults as late as 40 years old who develop auto-immune diseases and wind up having Type-1 diabetes.
Complications can occur in both types of diabetes if it is not managed correctly. High sugars over several years will damage various organs. Resulting eye damage can lead to blindness, kidney damage results in kidney failure; nerve damage can lead to numbness and even amputations. However, these complications can be prevented with proper management. This includes checking blood sugars, taking appropriate insulin or pills, eating right, exercising and frequent visits to a diabetes team. A hemoglobin A1C test is completed during each visit, and this monitors diabetes control for the past two to three months. Also, the diabetes team (which includes the patient and family) will create a custom plan for the next three or four months.
Management of diabetes has transformed throughout the last decade. Improved medicines, insulin pump delivery and continuous glucose monitoring are just a few of the advances. Research shows great promise in creating a future where diabetes is a curable disease.
Dr. Khalid Hasan is a pediatric endocrinologist in the Valley. He takes care of children and young adults up to 26 years of age. Reach him at email@example.com or (480) 821-2883.