Diabetes in Children

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At UVA Health Children's, you will find diabetes specialists for your child’s specific condition and situation. We have clinics to help your child manage living with type 1 diabetes or avoid developing type 2, as well as advanced treatments and cutting-edge research that can benefit your child in the future.

When Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your child’s body can’t make insulin. Our bodies need insulin to break down glucose, a sugar, into energy.

Things to know about type 1 Diabetes:

  • It’s an auto-immune disease
  • It has a genetic component
  • You can’t prevent it
  • No treatment or cure exists
  • Insulin must be taken daily to live

Because there's no cure for this type of diabetes, it's important to understand the treatment. Maintaining your child's insulin levels requires daily monitoring. Learning about the disease, helping your child stay healthy, and finding support are important steps.  

Managing Diabetes

Diabetes means life changes for both your child and your family. Managing diabetes includes monitoring:

  • Insulin, delivered by injection or insulin pump
  • When your child eats
  • How much your child eats, with a limitation on carbs
  • Exercise, to lower blood sugar

Maintaining glucose levels requires constant monitoring. Too much exercise can result in hypoglycemia; not enough can cause hyperglycemia. Kids can become dizzy and weak if they play too hard or eat too much. Our pediatric dietitians will help your child find ways to achieve balance and maintain a healthy diet.

Your child will also undergo regular:

  • Blood testing to check blood-glucose levels
  • Urine testing to check ketone levels

Classes for Parents & Patients

Learn about programs that help you manage your child’s:

  • Continuous glucose monitoring
  • Insulin pump 

See all the resources we offer for managing your child’s diabetes.

Research into Diabetes

At UVA Health Children's, our vision is to control and eliminate type 1 diabetes in Virginia. Our University of Virginia Center for Diabetes Technology continues to work towards:

  • Developing an artificial pancreas
  • Performing genetic screening on all children under 5
  • Customizing treatments
  • Improving islet cell transplants
  • Treating type 1 with immunotherapy

Enrolling your child in a clinical trial could mean access to the most advanced technologies for diabetes. Learn more about clinical trials for artificial pancreas.

Type 2 Diabetes

Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes can usually be prevented with healthy eating and activity. A lack of good food and exercise can hurt the body’s ability to make enough, or properly use, insulin. Obesity also plays a role in damaging the body’s ability to use insulin. As childhood obesity rates have risen in the last 20 years, so has the number of children developing type 2 diabetes.

Managing Type 2 

At UVA Health Children's, we try to recognize your child’s risk for diabetes before it happens. Our Children’s Fitness Clinic, for instance, can help kids:

  • Learn portion control
  • Choose exercises your child enjoys enough to do regularly
  • Set personalized goals 

Children can control type 2 diabetes with diet, exercise, and weight loss. Your child may also need oral or injected medicine and/or insulin injections.

Pediatric Transplant for Diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes have a high risk for kidney failure. An organ transplant may be a treatment option if your child has:

  • Developed severe kidney disease
  • Episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a dangerous complication when you have too many ketones from a lack of insulin or food — despite using insulin
  • Severe emotional problems due to insulin treatment
  • Frequent, potentially life-threatening complications, particularly hypoglycemia

At UVA Health Children's, our transplant center has expert surgeons and support staff to help your child through a pediatric kidney transplant.