A child with symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue or frequent fungal diseases may have diabetes.
Such symptoms can appear in cases of type 2 diabetes, which used to be confined almost exclusively to older adults, or type 1 diabetes, which often starts in childhood or adolescence, according to Monika Niehaus, spokeswoman for the Professional Association of Paediatricians in the German state of Thuringia.
“Particularly cramps, constipation, blurred vision and recurrent skin infections can be signs of type 1 diabetes,” she noted.
Type 1 diabetes has become the most common metabolic disorder in children and adolescents in Germany. The number of new cases has risen especially sharply among small children in recent years, jumping from 2.5 to 6.2 per cent over the past 20 years among children under four years of age.
Some 25,000 adolescents in Germany under the age of 20 have type 1 diabetes. The number of adolescents with type 2 diabetes has more than doubled over the past 10 years, which is likely due in part to their increasingly unhealthy eating habits and weight issues.
Detecting diabetes early is very important, Niehaus said. Without insulin treatment, a diabetic could develop life-threatening ketoacidosis, a condition in which acids called ketones build up in the blood and urine, requiring immediate hospitalization. Possible symptoms include dehydration, difficulty in breathing, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
According to the 2011 German Health Report on Diabetes, children are most likely to develop type 1 diabetes between the ages of 10 and 15. The onset of a third of the cases occurs between ages 5 and 10, about 19 per cent around the age of 5 and about 10 per cent between ages 15 and 18.