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Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to process food by converting it into energy. There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.1

Type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in children. It occurs when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone necessary for the body to transfer glucose (sugar) from the blood stream into the body's cells where it is used as energy.2 Know risk factors for type 1 diabetes are family history and the presence of certain genes. Some possible risk factors are exposure to certain viruses and low levels of vitamin D.3

Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults, but is growing in frequency among children.Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to the insulin it produces or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin.5 The primary risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes in children is being overwieght. Other risk factors include inactivity, family history, being female, and for unknown reasons being of Native American, Hispanic, Black, Asian, or Pacific Island decent.6

Symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue, and irritability. Additional symptoms of type 2 diabetes are frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts/bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands/feet, and recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections.7


Fact Sheets and Frequently Asked Questions  

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has numerous fact sheets on diabetes.
  • The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has information for newly diagnosed children and teens.

Other Resources

Advocacy and Social Connections


  1. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (2011). Diagnosis of Diabetes. Available online at
  2. Mayo Clinic (2012). Type 1 diabetes in children. Available on-line at
  3. National Diabetes Education Program (2011). Overview of diabetes in children and adolescents. Available on-line at
  4. Mayo Clinic (2012). Type 2 diabetes in children. Available on-line at
  5. American Diabetes Association (2012). Diabetes basics. Available online at


  • Oct 10 2014