What You Need to Know About Diabetes in Children

Ask the Experts

osipoff1 Jennifer Osipoff, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology

Diabetes is not just an adult disease. Diabetes can affect people of all ages, including infants and children. There are two primary forms: Type 1, which is an autoimmune disease, and Type 2, which is associated with increased body weight. Pediatric endocrinologist Jennifer Osipoff, MD, discuss diabetes in children and the treatments available at Stony Brook Children’s Service.

Isn’t diabetes rare in children?
Recent studies have shown that Type 1 diabetes is increasing in the pediatric population. Right now, approximately one out of every 400 children is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which makes it a fairly common disease. The other main form of diabetes, Type 2, is also becoming more common in children, and is likely related to increased body weight. 

What are the symptoms? 
As with adults, the symptoms are increased thirst and increased urination. With Type 1 diabetes, there may be weight loss despite adequate food intake. 
Unfortunately, both parents and pediatricians can easily overlook diabetes symptoms in babies and children. If diabetes develops and is left untreated, a dangerous dehydration state called diabetic ketoacidosis can occur.

What happens with diabetes ketoacidosis? 
When the body is not able to produce insulin it can’t process sugar, so it looks for other sources of energy. It starts to break down fat, which produces ketones, a form of acid. Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis can include nausea, vomiting, respiratory distress, abdominal pain, dehydration and altered mental status. Diabetes ketoacidosis is a lifethreatening condition that requires immediate emergency care.

What’s the treatment for children with diabetes? 
The most important goal is to get and keep the blood sugar under control. For Type 1 diabetes, insulin is essential. For Type 2 diabetes, diet and exercise along with oral medications can be tried first, but insulin may eventually need to be added.

What are the advantages of pumps? 
Insulin pumps most closely mimic the way the body naturally produces and delivers insulin. The pump is worn outside the body and programmed with a formula unique to each child. 
An insulin pump also eliminates the need for multiple daily injections. Instead, the insulin is delivered through a small plastic tube inserted through the skin.

Does Stony Brook offer any other advantages to children with diabetes? 
It takes a team to take care of children with diabetes. In addition to our four pediatric endocrinologists, we have a dedicated diabetes educator and a dietitian. 
In all of our offices we can also monitor the Hemoglobin A1C, which keeps children from having to pay a visit to the laboratory. And we keep pace with new technologies as soon as they’re available.

Can you give some examples of these new technologies?
Our offices in Center Moriches, Commack and Patchogue recently acquired a professional continuous glucose monitor called the IPRO2. The device, which is used for a few days twice a year, records the child’s blood glucose 24 hours a day. With the IPRO2 we can get a much more accurate picture of the child’s glucose levels during his or her daily activities, even when asleep. 
We also offer personal continuous glucose monitors, which children can wear at home. This device is an important addition to their insulin therapy.

What makes Stony Brook’s approach to diabetes care different? 
At Stony Brook Children’s, our pediatric endocrinology division is proactive about starting patients who need insulin on an insulin pump, if they qualify. For your convenience, we offer services in several locations.

• 600 Main Street, Center Moriches
• 500 Commack Road, Commack
• 37 Research Way, East Setauket
• 450 Waverly Avenue, Patchogue

For appointments at any of these locations, call (631) 444-KIDS.

All health and health-related information contained in this article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance, and treatment. The information is intended to offer only general information for individuals to discuss with their healthcare provider. It is not intended to constitute a medical diagnosis or treatment or endorsement of any particular test, treatment, procedure, service, etc. Reliance on information provided is at the user's risk. Your healthcare provider should be consulted regarding matters concerning the medical condition, treatment, and needs of you and your family. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.