Fighting diabetes in children

BANGALORE: Eight-year-old Samar (name changed) had viral fever in July this year. A week after the viral infection was cured, Samar started complaining pain while passing urine. He also lost considerable weight in 8-10 days. When tests were conducted, doctors found a high level of sugar in his blood. Samar, a student of class II, is now diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Samar is just one case, where a school-going child is identified with Type 1 diabetes. But according to an estimate, worldwide, there are over 4.40 lakh children under the age of 2 to 15 suffering from this disease. Childhood diabetes has a high mortality rate in developing countries.

A study says that many children with Type 1 diabetes die because of lack of diagnostic facilities as symptoms of diabetes in children resemble symptoms of common acute medical conditions encountered in many least developed countries.

“Most of the time, a routine viral fever or any other type of infection can be a cause of Type 1 diabetes in children. It is an auto-immune disease which affects the pancreas and if one fails to identify the early symptoms, the blood sugar rises to an uncontrollable level,” said Dr Prasanna Kumar, a diabetologist and endocrinologist.

Paediatrician Dr Yashodadevi said that Type 1 is one of the most common patterns of diabetes that affects children. “This is usually caused due to failure in functioning of the pancreatic beta cell and possibly due to an auto-immune destruction. Basically, diabetes is a hereditary disease. Patients (children) suffering from this disease can also fall into coma,” she said.

She said these patients have problems like frequent urinating, drinking lot of water (they are forever thirsty), overeating and still losing weight. “Males and females are equally prone to this disease, but parents of obese children are advised to take their child for a diabetes test. This is a life-long disease, children are continuously on insulin, which is very painful,” said Dr Yashodadevi.

Dr Somashekhar Reddy, endocrinologist, said: “Nowadays, the major worry is about children suffering with Type 2 diabetes (one suffered by the adults, where patient has to take regular dosage of insulin). This type of diabetes is related to lifestyle, stress of education, consumption of fast food and soft drinks and obesity. At present, less than 1% children in Bangalore are suffering from Type 2 diabetes, but it can be a major cause of concern in future.”

There is no scientific evidence that certain diet habits can lead to diabetes. Children suffering from diabetes usually are not put on diet restriction because they are growing and also are on insulin.

In an attempt to address this critical gap in the management of diabetes in India, a pharmaceutical company has launched a pan India diabetes programme Changing diabetes in children (CdiC) to give children below the poverty line access to comprehensive diabetes care and management.

Former President and scientist A P J Abdul Kalam launched the programme on Wednesday, in the presence of children with Type 1 diabetes.