Metabolic Disorder That Affects Insulin Production

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects insulin production in your child’s body. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1, which is a chronic autoimmune disorder, and type 2, which is typically caused by environmental factors. Other forms of diabetes are less common and include monogenic diabetes which is a single-gene defect leading to less insulin production and diabetes associated with medications or cystic fibrosis.

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we know that a diagnosis is challenging for both you and your child. Our top priority is to treat your child immediately, especially if your child is very ill. We offer team-based inpatient and outpatient, personalized education sessions and the latest treatments for controlling and managing diabetes. Our goal is to focus on evaluation and education to help your child and your entire family understand diabetes and how to manage it.

Our diabetes education program is certified by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. We are committed to providing outpatient education – versus inpatient education – which sets up apart from many other medical centers. We find it’s more convenient for our patients and keeps our pediatric patients from unnecessary hospital stays.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Pediatric type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease in which your child’s body cannot regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. A high blood sugar level can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop quickly over a short period. Children can be very sick by the time they are diagnosed. Type 2 diabetes typically develops slowly, so patients with high blood sugar levels can have no symptoms.  

Type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed with the following tests:

  • Fasting blood sugar test (your child fasts overnight)
  • Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) blood test
  • Random blood sugar test (taken at a random time)
  • Urine test (to check for ketones or spilling sugars)

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune disease with no cure. With the latest glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps to help manage blood sugar levels, pediatric type 1 diabetic patients can live relatively normal lives.

Type 2 diabetes can be well controlled with significant lifestyle adjustments to weight and eating habits. In both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, tight control of blood glucose can help prevent or delay diabetes complications.

Why Choose Penn State Health Children's Hospital for Care?

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Support

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but type 2 diabetes may be well controlled with lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising and eating healthier foods. Treatment of type 1 or type 2 diabetes involves medicines, healthy food diet and exercise to control your child’s blood sugar level.

All pediatric patients and their parents or caregivers should receive proper education and support on how to manage their diabetes. We have dedicated diabetes nurse educators to help ease the transitions into diabetes management for you and your child. And, regular checkups with your child’s pediatrician and the Penn State Health Children’s endocrinology team will help give you the support you need, especially right after diagnosis.

Pediatric Diabetes Education

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we are committed to pediatric diabetes education and management. Your child’s well-being is our top priority. Our diabetes team includes:

  • Diabetes nurse educators
  • Dieticians
  • Pediatric endocrinologists
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers

Education sessions will be both individual and in a small group setting. You and your child will learn about blood sugar levels, insulin therapy, nutrition and many other techniques for controlling diabetes to avoid complications. We also provide follow-up classes for continued support, including individual sessions with our diabetes nurse educator to review what you’ve learned, as well as an insulin pump education and support program.

Diabetes Treatment Options at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can occur at any age, but a child is more likely to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Our Penn State Health Children’s Hospital experts treat pediatric diabetes with a team approach. You, your child and your entire family are part of that team – and just as important as the medical professionals. Keeping diabetes under control focuses on blood sugar levels that are controlled with insulin therapy (injections or a pump) and an appropriate diet with exercise. Although there is no cure for diabetes, children with this disease can lead a nearly normal childhood and adolescence if their disease is kept under control.

  • Blood Glucose Meter: our team will teach you to check your child’s blood sugar level using a blood glucose meter, a computerized device that measures and displays the amount of glucose in a blood sample
  • Continuous Glucose Monitor: if our team needs a more detailed look at your child’s levels, we may prescribe a wearable continuous glucose monitor that measures blood sugar every few minutes throughout the day and night
  • Ongoing monitoring: it is critical to frequently test your child’s blood sugar level to make sure it remains within his or her target range. Continuous monitoring is a daily reality for children with diabetes. It can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s important to take it one day at a time. A commercially available, wearable continuous glucose monitor that measures blood sugar every few minutes throughout the day and night is a frequently prescribed option.
  • Insulin: the amount of insulin your child needs daily is dependent on his or her blood sugar levels. You or your child will inject the insulin with a syringe or pen device, or it will be administered through a pump on an outgoing basis as needed. The pump is wireless and will be programmed to dispense specific amounts of insulin automatically. You can adjust it to deliver more or less insulin depending on meals, activity level and blood sugar level.

Ongoing Diabetes Management

Your child’s diabetes care needs will change as they grow. Our team is here to closely monitor their growth and development, and make any plan adjustments as necessary. We will schedule office appointments at the Penn State Health Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Clinic every three months, but we are available for support at any time.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

View All Support Groups