Since 1991, every November 14 marks World Diabetes Day, the date chosen for the birth of Sir Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin together with Charles Best in 1921.
Insulin is a hormone needed by millions of people with diabetes, and many of them still cannot access the medical care they require.
Therefore, it is extremely important to understand the main symptoms and causes of this pathology in order to diagnose in time and start the treatment that best suits each patient to improve their quality of life.
Let’s review a little local numbers and types of diabetes to prevent its growth.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, 1 in 11 adults in the world lives with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form in the general population. In Argentina, according to data from the ENFR (National Survey of Risk Factors), 12% of the population has diabetes and / or high blood glucose. Approximately 96,000 children under 15 years of age develop diabetes annually in the world. In most Western countries, type 1 diabetes constitutes 90% of diabetes in children and adolescents, this being one of the most frequent chronic diseases in children and that can be diagnosed at any age.
Both forms of diabetes are associated with both acute and chronic complications. Long-term complications can compromise different systems and organs, causing a decrease in quality and life expectancy. This can be avoided and / or its severity reduced by means of adequate glycemic control, that is, keeping blood glucose values in a range as close to normal as possible most of the time.
As for type 1 diabetes, it is of autoimmune origin and most children do not have a family history. This form of diabetes cannot be prevented, it appears suddenly and without warning. The reason why it occurs is the lack of insulin, since the beta cell of the pancreas, responsible for its synthesis and release, is damaged by an abnormal autoimmune response.
It is essential to make a timely consultation with the pediatrician before the symptoms and signs characteristic of diabetes: urinating more than usual (polyuria), being excessively thirsty (polydipsia), fatigue and weight loss. If the consultation is carried out early, severe onset forms of the disease such as diabetic ketoacidosis, which is life-threatening for the child, are avoided.
The treatment of type 1 diabetes is based on the application of exogenous insulin to replace what the body cannot produce. This treatment should also include glycemic monitoring several times a day, techniques to estimate food intake, such as carbohydrate counting and knowing the impact of physical exercise on blood glucose values. All the learning necessary to implement it is achieved through diabetes education, which must be planned, organized and appropriate to the possibilities of each patient and each family.
In recent years, new technological resources have emerged such as continuous glycemic monitoring sensors, insulin infusion pumps and smart systems that integrate both. These devices are capable of automatically adjusting the amount of insulin that is administered according to the glucose values captured and reported by the sensor, thus allowing less user intervention.
These tools, together with education for their management, contributed to achieving better clinical results, greater patient autonomy, alleviating the burden associated with treating people with diabetes, and minimizing the occurrence of acute events such as hypoglycemia.
In the framework of the centenary of the discovery of insulin, we are facing a unique scenario to raise awareness, encourage, achieve significant changes and continue working in search of equity in access to new therapeutic and technological resources to improve the quality of life of all women. people with diabetes.
Pediatrician specializing in diabetes – Infantojuvenil of the Austral University Hospital.