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Team-Based Care for Type 1 Diabetes

The endocrinology specialists at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s are passionate about effectively treating children with type 1 diabetes.

This autoimmune disorder damages the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, so your body is not able to produce what you need. This is a problem as insulin is necessary to change blood sugar, also known as glucose, into energy. Without insulin, too much glucose collects in the blood and not enough goes to your cells. When the cells don’t have enough fuel, they don’t work the way they should.

Children with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to live. It is a chronic illness for which there is no known cure. It must be closely managed and treated so it doesn’t lead to other life-threatening conditions. However, with proper care, your child can live a normal life.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes can develop suddenly. Often, patients with uncontrolled or undiagnosed type 1 diabetes have frequent urination, excessive thirst and rapid weight loss. A child with type 1 diabetes may suddenly start wetting the bed at night when they previously did not. As the disease progresses, if it is not diagnosed and treated properly, the patient will feel nauseous, experience abdominal pain, start vomiting and experience headaches, vision changes and fast breathing.

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms of diabetes, it is imperative to see a healthcare provider immediately who will administer a pediatric urine test for diabetes. If the test is positive, it is critical to work with a team of board-certified and fellowship-trained endocrinologists who are well-trained in type 1 diabetes care management. This will ensure your child receives the best diabetes treatment immediately, but also as they grow and develop.

What You Can Expect for our Pediatric Endocrinology Team

When your child comes to us, they will be surrounded by a caring team of endocrinology specialists who will work together to confirm the diagnosis, determine the right diabetes treatment options and provide detailed training to help you and your child manage the disease over time.

Once we determine your child has type 1 diabetes, you can expect for them to be admitted to the hospital for at least two days. First and foremost, we want to get your child’s diabetes under control. We ensure your child is metabolically stable and is not showing signs of acidosis, or too much acid in the system.

Once we know your child’s condition is stable, we will transfer them to a warm and welcoming room where our team of nurse educators, diabetes dietitians, nutritionists and psychologists will work with you and your child to understand the disease and how it should be managed over time.

We will teach you how to check your child’s blood sugar, count carbohydrates and give your child insulin shots. A child with type 1 diabetes can eat a normal diet–and can even have a sugary treat now and then. The important thing is to count the number of carbohydrates consumed so both you and your child can adjust the amount of insulin to compensate. To manage type 1 diabetes, you may need to do a lot of math, calculating doses based on blood sugar levels. Our goal is to make you feel 100 percent comfortable handling the disease before you go home.

Once your child is discharged from the hospital, we will see them in the outpatient setting once a month for the first three months, and then every three months. Because we provide multiple locations throughout the community, our team of diabetes and endocrinology specialists is available to you without traveling far from home.

We also remain in contact with you between visits. Our endocrinologists are available to answer questions during the day, and our endocrinology after-hours team is always ready to help you and your child if there is an issue in the middle of the night. Our diabetes nurse educators can also review your child’s blood sugar readings and adjust medications between visits if necessary.

Targeting Care for Specific Ages

Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, and there are different issues depending on when the disease emerges. For example, puberty affects the dosage of medication. So, even if your child’s diabetes is controlled when they are younger, they may need an adjustment during the teen years. Adolescence is a time of change in all aspects of a child’s growth, and their ability to produce insulin and respond to medication is no different. For this reason, we keep a close eye on your child’s blood sugar levels, lab results and other critical readings. We may ask to see the patient a little more frequently or have you send in readings to our nursing staff for analysis.

Our mental health professionals (social workers and psychologists) are also available to work with patients to navigate some of the stressors associated with diabetes and puberty. Studies show that children often have the worst diabetes control of their life during adolescence. Our team can help you and your child work through some of these challenges and ensure a holistic and positive approach to diabetes management. Group therapy sessions are also available, so your child can connect and learn with others facing how to control diabetes.

Applying the Latest Research to Treatment

The endocrinology specialist team at UH Rainbow & Babies Children’s is at the forefront of research, leading several national studies and clinical trials. The endocrinology team is also involved in a number of national organizations and standard-setting boards, moving the specialty forward every day.

Using Innovative Technology

The technology used to manage diabetes is evolving every day. Patients with type 1 can chose from different diabetes technologies, including insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors and hybrid closed-loop insulin delivery systems. Continuous glucose monitors send an alarm when glucose levels rise or fall to a certain level, prompting the patient to take action. There are even insulin pumps available that automatically deliver insulin. This is especially helpful in the middle of the night when the patient and family may not be aware of dangerous readings. The monitor ensures children and families are alerted to problems, so they can address them and then rest easy.

Unfortunately, many technology solutions are not yet approved for children. However, we work closely with insurance companies to be certain our patients have access to appropriate and safe tools that can help with diabetes treatment.

Getting Comprehensive Type 1 Diabetes Care is Essential

Type 1 diabetes is not dangerous when it is well managed. However, if left untreated, it can cause serious complications, such as eye problems and blindness, heart disease, stroke, neurological problems, amputation and kidney disease. For this reason, it is essential you partner with a diabetes treatment team that has the expertise to effectively manage your child’s care. At UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, we work collaboratively and apply the latest research to make sure your child gets the right treatment to live a safe and healthy life for years to come.