Diabetes Program for Children and Families

Diabetes is a medical condition that causes irregular blood sugar levels in the body. When blood sugar levels remain too high for too long, it can cause long-term health problems such as nerve damage, vision impairment, kidney damage, or heart disease. The pediatric endocrinologists at Connecticut Children’s provide exceptional care for all forms of diabetes, including:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Monogenic  diabetes
  • Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY)
  • Permanent neonatal diabet
  • Post-pancreatectomy diabetes
  • Cystic  fibrosis-related diabetes
  • Steroid-induced diabetes

The two most common forms of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. These differ in cause, signs and symptoms, and treatment.

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s own immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin—the hormone that is needed to keep blood sugar levels stable. When the body stops producing insulin entirely, blood sugar levels rise out of control. Type 1 diabetes typically occurs during puberty, although incidence among children younger than age five has been increasing.
  • Children with Type 2 diabetes still produce insulin, but they may produce too little insulin to meet the body’s needs or the body does not respond to it properly in a malfunction called insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is largely linked to obesity. It is possible to prevent Type 2 diabetes by losing weight with a healthy meal plan and increased exercise.

Children with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes may exhibit signs and symptoms such as weight loss without trying, frequent need to urinate, increased hunger, increased thirst, bedwetting, trouble seeing, and feeling tired. In addition, children with Type 2 diabetes often develop dark patches of skin on the back of the neck, armpits, groin, and between the finger and toes.

Diagnosing diabetes

Connecticut Children’s pediatric endocrinologists use several tests to diagnose children with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, including hemoglobin (A1C), random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test, oral glucose tolerance test, auto-antibodies in the blood, and ketones in the urine. Tests are performed again on a different day to confirm results. For pediatric patients who show signs of possible monogenic diabetes, specialized genetic testing is done.

Treatment

A diabetes diagnosis can be an emotional time for children and their family, marked by grief and uncertainty. Connecticut Children’s AADE-accredited diabetes program supports children and families with a commitment to meeting the continuous care requirements associated with diabetes. We offer a range of complementary support services to help manage the physical, emotional and psychological effects of the condition. Living with diabetes, as a patient or parent, requires an adjustment period.

At Connecticut Children’s, our highly specialized care focuses on educating patients and families about diabetes along with a complete explanation of treatment and management options, such as:

  • Behavioral health support
  • Continuous glucose sensor
  • Home glucose monitoring
  • Insulin injections
  • Insulin pump
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Nutrition education
  • Oral medication
  • Physical activity

Testing blood sugar levels and for ketones in the urine is an ongoing necessity for diabetes management. Blood sugar must be tested several times each day using a glucose monitor so pediatric patients know if they are maintaining target levels based on their treatment schedule. Special management needs may include sick days, insulin pump reminders, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Managing diabetes in children can be stressful. It is important to know when to call your diabetes health care team in urgent and non-urgent situations.

Diabetes Transition Program

Endocrinologists at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are experts in caring for children and teens affected by diabetes, but as pediatric patients grow up they will need to see physicians who care for adults. Connecticut Children’s Diabetes Transition Program support begins at age 12 to help patients learn more about diabetes as they mature and take on greater responsibilities such as managing their health. Learn more by reading information that is tailored to an adolescent's age:

Transition Quiz

After reviewing the materials above, test your knowledge about diabetes self-care and take the Transition Quiz that is right for your age. The answers will appear after each question and, right or wrong, can help you communicate better with your physician and parents as you take on more responsibilities related to your health. Good luck!