Parents Key in Managing Adolescents' Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

Study shows that lax parental oversight leads to poor juvenile diabetes management.

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A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, can be scary for any family, but what happens next determines how well the child is able to manage the disease, suggests new research scheduled to be presented Friday at the Society of Behavioral Medicine's annual meeting in Seattle. When parents don't monitor their kids' conditions closely, children and teens with type 1 diabetes are less likely to take proper care of themselves, the study found.

[Read Beyond Insulin: Searching for a Cure to Type 1 Diabetes.]

Lax management of type 1 diabetes can result in heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness. If not properly controlled, the disease can also shorten life expectancy by seven to 10 years, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Still, following doctor's orders can be a daunting task because it means measuring blood glucose throughout the day, administering insulin injections or using an insulin pump, eating regularly, watching fat and carbohydrate intake, exercising, and adjusting insulin dosage based on meals and exercise.

[Read It's OK to Incorporate Flexibility Into Your Diabetes Diet.]

In the new study, University of Utah researchers studied specific measures of parental involvement in the management of their child's type 1 diabetes, such as knowing what the child eats, quality of the parent-child relationship, and how well parents helped kids get needed medical supplies, among other tasks. Study participants included 252 children and teens, ages 10 to 14. The researchers found that as the children aged, parents became less strict about monitoring their kids' treatment regimens. They also found that children and teens who experienced the most trouble following a proper diabetes treatment plan were those whose moms were less accepting of them and those whose parents were the most slack about monitoring their treatment and care.

Even parents whose children haven't been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes should be aware of the symptoms of the disease, experts say, since type 1 diabetes is on the rise. Untreated, the disease can be fatal. The symptoms may appear suddenly and can mimic the flu or other childhood illnesses. Here are the warning signs, provided by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sugar in urine
  • Fruity, sweet, or winelike odor on breath
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Drowsiness, lethargy
  • Heavy, labored breathing
  • Stupor, unconsciousness

[Read With Type 1 Diabetes on the Rise, Parents Should Know the Warning Signs.]