Why children with diabetes need a pediatric endocrinologist

Why see a pediatric endocrinologist

Let’s face it: children are physically, cognitively and emotionally strikingly different from adults. When children have diabetes these differences affect how they communicate and understand symptoms and treatment of the disease.

The pediatric endocrinology team at TMCOne is comprised of specialist providers and educators who support our pediatric patients and their families with developmentally appropriate care. Pediatric endocrinologists treat children with diseases of the endocrine system, such as those with diabetes or growth disorders. We talked to the team about treating children with diabetes:

My child has been diagnosed with diabetes, why should we see a pediatric endocrinologist?

Both children and adults can experience similar symptoms of high and low blood sugars, but younger children might have trouble expressing their symptoms to their parents or caregivers. As physicians and educators, we take extra time to explain complicated medical details to a child in terms they can understand.

The difference between treating children and adults with diabetes isn’t just in how we communicate, but also because we are treating a condition that is affected by the ongoing physiological and hormonal changes associated with growth.

As children grow, develop and experience puberty, their insulin requirements change. Children with diabetes need to have regular monitoring throughout these changes to adjust treatment plans, educate, and help with any problems that have developed around diabetes. The pediatric endocrinology team helps your child and you master the skills and knowledge whether it is a young child newly diagnosed, or the teen who learning to manage diabetes independently of their parents.

Regardless of age, however, a person with diabetes needs a supportive network of family, friends and health care professionals to troubleshoot the everyday or emergent events that can occur with diabetes, whether it is type 1 or type 2.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a broad term used to describe a number of disorders with different origins and impacts. What Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have in common is a problem with the hormone insulin.

The primary purpose of insulin is to pull glucose into the body’s cells. Without insulin, or without a full insulin dose, glucose remains in the blood, raising blood sugar levels in the individual. Both those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes must monitor and manage their blood glucose carefully to avoid both short-term symptoms and long-term complications. Both forms of diabetes are serious conditions that require medical care.

Type 1 diabetes

Cells in the pancreas of people with Type 1 diabetes do not make insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin to control their blood glucose levels. Insulin can be delivered by injections or pumps. It’s usually diagnosed in children or young adults

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the form of diabetes that affects a large portion of our adult community, but is seen increasingly in young children. When a person has Type 2 diabetes, insulin is still produced by the pancreas, but it does not work as well as a person without diabetes.

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is often associated with excess weight. Families are encouraged to use diet and exercise to help weight loss and reduce the body’s resistance to insulin if their child has Type 2 diabetes. In addition, medication may be used to make the insulin more effective. When those treatments do not work, insulin may be used.

Which type of diabetes is more common in children?

New cases of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes among children are on the rise. Type 1 diabetes is significantly more common in children than Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is found predominantly in adults 40 years and older. It is found occasionally in teenagers.

In the last decade, children have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at a higher rate than before. The following risk factors are linked to the higher rates of Type 2 diabetes in children:

  • increased sedentary lifestyle
  • higher body mass index
  • excess of availability of processed foods

Helping children exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet can help drive down the rates of Type 2 diabetes, but it cannot affect those with Type 1 diabetes. Children with Type 1 diabetes cannot prevent nor treat their lack of insulin through diet and exercise.

Can children acquire both types of diabetes?

A child can get either Type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. In general, of all the children in Southern Arizona with diabetes, about 85-90 percent have Type 1 diabetes.

It’s important to note that Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes are managed differently. Type 1 does not become Type 2 diabetes nor does Type 2 become Type 1.

Check out our blog posts about Type 1 diabetes.

When your child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes

Dr. Priti Gupta Patel, pediatric endocrinologist

Dr. Chetanbabu M. Patel, pediatric endocrinologist

Dr. Chetanbabu M. Patel, pediatric endocrinologist


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461