First, let’s talk about what causes diabetes, discuss a few medical terms and ultimately understand what is happening inside of your child’s body. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer make insulin.

Insulin is a hormone and it’s important because it converts the sugars and starches your child eats into energy the body can use. Think of insulin like a key that is used to unlock your cells. Once the cell is unlocked sugar can go inside and then used for energy. Without insulin, sugar stays in your bloodstream causing high blood sugars.

These sugars (also called glucose) cannot be used for energy without insulin so your body releases them into the urine. If there isn’t insulin, the body breaks down fat to help give your cells energy. This process creates ketones that build up in the bloodstream and make you sick. Ketones also cause the most common symptoms associated with diabetes. These symptoms are:

  • Increased urination
  • Thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Irritability or unusual behavior

Type 1 diabetes can begin at any age, but there are peak periods from ages five to six and then again at ages 11 to 13. The first sign will most likely be an increase in bathroom visits to pee or a recurrence of bedwetting in children who are already potty-trained.

According to, your child will also complain of being thirsty and tired and will lose weight, but be hungry all the time. This happens because sugar from food gets stuck in the bloodstream and cannot get to the cell without insulin making the body think it needs more food, which only makes the problem worse. 

As parents and guardians, it’s important to identify these symptoms early since children that are diagnosed late may become ill and require emergency room visits or hospital stays for IV fluids and insulin.

Type 1 diabetes affects about 1 in 400 children, adolescents, and young adults under 20 years of age. There is no cure for this disease, but insulin treatment is very effective for the daily management of diabetes. 

Arkansas Children’s Diabetes Clinic

The Arkansas Children’s Diabetes Clinic deals with newly diagnosed or follow-up diabetes patients, offering a broad multidisciplinary approach to diabetes management. For appointments, call 501-236-4949. For more information, the Diabetes Clinic also provides the Diabetes 101 Booklet