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Facts on the Condition

General description including types, causes, prevalence, signs and symptoms

Around one in 700 Australian children has diabetes. Diabetes is an endocrine disorder where the body is unable to use blood sugar (glucose). Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood and young adulthood, although it can occur at any age. Most children and young people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes otherwise known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. In order to use glucose for energy the hormone insulin needs to be secreted by the pancreas. People with Type 1 diabetes or IDDM are unable to produce insulin and require its replacement by injection. Type 1 diabetes is NOT caused by lifestyle factors.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue /lethargy/general feelings of weakness in the body
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Treatments, including role of specialists, effects of treatments, use of devices, daily routines

The treatment for type 1 diabetes is lifelong insulin injections each and every day of the student’s life.

While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be successfully managed with insulin replacement, regular monitoring of the blood glucose levels, dietary modifications that include a disciplined eating plan and exercise. Usually a student is able to inject insulin at home before and after school, but occasionally it is required more frequently. Similarly, students will need to check their blood glucose at some time during the day and this may or may not be at school.

While some students with Type 1 diabetes, require regular snacks throughout the day, all require a regular consistent food intake. Too much insulin, exercise without food, or missing a meal may result in low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia). Ideally a student should have lollies, fruit and or a source of carbohydrate (biscuits) on hand to treat “hypo’s”. If a “hypo” results in loss of consciousness it is an emergency and medical treatment is urgently required. In this instance NO attempt to feed the student should be made as they might choke.

High glucose levels (hyper glycaemia) can occur when more food than usual, is eaten, or not enough insulin is taken. Stress, common viral infections and lack of exercise can also produce high blood sugar. If hyperglycaemia persists for some time acidic ketone bodies appear in the blood and urine. Once ketones are present the situation can become a medical emergency if left untreated.

Complete PDF version of Diabetes entry