What is diabetes? 

As a parent, it's your job to worry. To fear the worst. To imagine that no-one is taking the needs of your child seriously enough. We understand these very natural concerns. By seeking help and advice, you're now in the hands of an experienced team of health professionals with the empathy, knowledge and know-how to help your child manage their diabetes.

Your head is probably full of questions. Every parent reacts differently to their child’s diagnosis – learning about diabetes is the first step.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood glucose levels to become too high. In the UK, around 2.9 million people are affected with 400,000 people in the UK having Type 1 Diabetes. Of these, over 23,000 are children and young people.

What is type 1 diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes usually develops before the age of 40, usually during the teenage years.
  • In type 1 diabetes, the cells in the pancreas (a small gland behind the stomach) do not produce any insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. If the amount of glucose in the blood is too high over a long period of time, it can seriously damage the body's organs.
  • Whilst it may take many months for the cells to stop making any insulin, the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes are rapid, occurring over a few weeks.
  • Type 1 Diabetes cannot be prevented.
  • If you have Type 1 Diabetes, you will need to take insulin injections for life. You must also make sure that your blood glucose levels stay balanced by eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and having regular blood tests.

What is type 2 diabetes?

  •  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body’s cells don't react to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance.
  •  Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the body doesn't produce any insulin at all. In the UK, about 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes usually affects people over the age of 40, although increasingly younger people are also being affected. It is more common in people of South Asian, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern descent.

There are other types of diabetes such as genetic defects effecting how the pancreas develops or due to various drug treatments and conditions such as cystic fibrosis.  These are dealt with by our partner team at Great Ormond Street Hospital. 

The Children and Young People's Diabetes Service at UCLH works in partnership with the Great Ormond Street Diabetes Service.

The Great Ormond Street service is led by Dr Catherine Peters (who also sees children at UCLH), together with Samantha Drew (Clinical Nurse Specialist) and Rebecca Margetts (Dietician).  Whilst the service at UCLH specialises in the management of Type 1 Diabetes, the focus of the GOS service is on less common forms of diabetes, including cystic fibrosis related diabetes, post transplant diabetes and steroid related diabetes.  


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