Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.  

Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells and produce energy.  

“The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown,” says Dr. Cassidy Leonard-Scott, pediatrician with Hannibal Regional Medical Group. “Often the cause is the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Other possible causes are genetics and exposure to viruses or other environmental factors.”

At the onset of type 1 diabetes, the damage to the insulin-producing cells is sudden and severe.  

“Once a significant number of insulin producing cells are destroyed, little or no insulin will be produced and must be replaced,” says Dr. Leonard-Scott. “If insulin is not produced to let glucose into the cells, sugar will build up with the bloodstream which can cause life-threatening complications.”

Because it begins so suddenly any child with signs or symptoms of diabetes should see a doctor for testing.  

Consider visiting with your doctor if your child experiences increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unintended weight loss, irritability and other mood changes, fatigue, weakness or blurred vision.  

“Once diagnosed with diabetes, maintaining a normal blood sugar level will help reduce the risk of any complications down the road,” says Dr. Leonard-Scott. “At this time, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes.  

“Treatment focuses on managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications.”

To schedule an appointment at Hannibal Regional Medical Group call 579-629-3500.