For many parents of children with type 1 diabetes, the life-changing diagnosis comes suddenly: The child has become dehydrated, resulting in a trip to the emergency room and sometimes life-threatening complications. Recently, researchers developed a classification system for the different stages of diabetes to help them understand how the disease progresses and identify type 1 diabetes before it progresses to a dangerous level.
No symptoms. Normal blood sugar levels. Positive results for diabetes-related antibodies mean the immune system has started to attack insulin-producing beta cells.
Still no symptoms, but an increased loss of beta cells results in abnormal blood sugar levels which, along with the presence of antibodies, cause damage that continues to worsen.
Symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and fatigue. Abnormal blood sugar levels. Previously, scientists considered Stage 3 as the beginning of type 1 diabetes.
If you have a family history of type 1 diabetes, ask your diabetes doctor if your child should be screened. Research shows that the earlier a child is diagnosed, the more beta cells can be preserved, meaning the child is less likely to suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication in which the body breaks down fat much too quickly. Thanks to groundbreaking research, we have a much better opportunity to identify disease earlier and save lives!
Our UW Health pediatric diabetes team is here to offer help and support throughout this journey.