The Pediatrician Answers:
Symptoms of juvenile diabetes can range from subtle (urinary frequency, nighttime urination, weight loss) to severe and life-threatening (fatigue and severe dehydration). Indeed, about 25% of children may present with the severe form the very first time they are diagnosed, and it is only after going back and asking parents that they may recall some of the more subtle symptoms.
Parents should never feel guilty for missing diabetes, as it may be very difficult to pick up from observation alone. Common ways to screen for diabetes include checking urine for glucose (sugar) or fingerprick blood tests for glucose. Since juvenile diabetes is relatively uncommon compared to the adult form, many physicians do not routinely screen children unless there are symptoms or concerns. About 90% of children with juvenile diabetes do not have any family members with the disease.
The risk for children of parents with diabetes (which began in childhood) is about 5%. A second type of diabetes, however, seems to be much more inherited. Type II diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, commonly occurs after young adulthood, and may or may not require insulin. Because many Americans continue to gain weight and avoid exercise, the incidence of adult-onset diabetes appears to be increasing as well.