Every decision a child with type 1 diabetes makes can impact on their blood glucose levels.
Professor Liz Davis, co-director of the Children’s Diabetes Centre at Telethon Kids Institute, explains what life is like for children and families living with a chronic disease.
1. Type 1 is a 24/7 disease.
“Type 1 diabetes is a round-the-clock disease that requires constant management and vigilance,” Professor Davis says.
“The management of the disease is relentless — there are literally hundreds of small decisions a family needs to make each day to help keep their child safe.
“There is no quitting or putting diabetes on hold. The burden on patients and their families is enormous and extremely stressful.”
2. Diabetes needs to be managed well.
“People with type 1 diabetes need to regularly test their blood glucose levels and carefully balance their insulin intake with eating, exercise and other activities, with the aim of keeping blood glucose levels in a healthy normal range.
“Good management starts from diagnosis and can have a profound effect on whether a child will grow up to be a healthy adult free of diabetes-related complications.
“If good habits are established early, these children will have much better outcomes in adulthood.”
3. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease.
Children with type 1 diabetes grow up to be adults with type 1.
“People with type 1 require insulin therapy for life via injections or a pump.”.
4. Type 1 diabetes is an ‘invisible’ disease.
Children with type 1 diabetes can look perfectly healthy on the outside but internally, it’s a different story.
“This is why type 1 is often referred to as an invisible disease as people living with it, in most cases, aren’t visibly ill,” Professor Davis says.
“Type 1 isn’t something you can see on someone.”
5. Exercise helps to manage type 1 diabetes.
Physical activity is a vital part of managing type 1 diabetes in childhood, resulting in improved cardiovascular health, strength and fitness — and fewer complications in adulthood.
“Despite the benefits, many people with diabetes shy away from exercise because of the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar),” Professor Davis says.
“Our research focuses on better understanding how young people with diabetes can exercise safely because the health benefits of an active lifestyle play an important role in their treatment.”