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Everything You Need to Know about Diabetes in Teens

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Ira Sagad · Updated Mar 03

    Everything You Need to Know about Diabetes in Teens

    There are approximately 208,000 people under age 20 suffering from both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Read on to learn more about diabetes symptoms in teens.

    While Type 1 DM is far more common among teenagers, the incidence of Type 2 DM in this age range is rapidly increasing as a result of the obesity epidemic.

    Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the glucose levels in the bloodstream become too high. It happens when the body does not produce enough insulin or is resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed by the body to absorb glucose and utilize it for energy production. Insulin is synthesized in and secreted by the pancreas.

    There are three major types of diabetes:

    • Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM), is a genetic, autoimmune disease in which the pancreas is not able to produce insulin to be used by the body. It typically manifests early in life, and teens with diabetes usually have T1DM.
    • Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2 DM), in contrast, is largely lifestyle-related. This type of diabetes occurs when the body has a high resistance to insulin and cannot use it properly. Type 2 DM is usually associated with other conditions such as obesity and hypertension. 
    • Gestational Diabetes

    Diagnosing Diabetes Symptoms in Teens

    The diagnosis of diabetes symptoms in teens is much like in adults. The criteria for diagnosing diabetes in teens are as follows:

    • Fasting blood glucose of more than or equal to 126mg/dl
    • HbA1c of less than or equal to 6.5%
    • Random blood glucose of more than 200mg/dl, together with clinical symptoms such as an increase in appetite, increased thirst, and increase in urine output

    To measure these values, doctors use a blood test that can determine the amount of glucose in your blood.

    While there are no definitive tools to differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, there are some laboratory tests that help look for markers of T1DM, such as c-peptide and autoantibodies.

    In addition, certain clinical information such as age of onset, risk factors, and presence of concomitant autoimmune diseases may help distinguish between the two.

    Although the signs and symptoms of diabetes often manifest early, they are usually mild and therefore not easily recognizable. As a result, many patients do not immediately seek consultation.

    Early intervention is critical in preventing possible complications of diabetes, and it is also why it is important, especially for teens, to pay attention to the changes in the body.

    Diabetes Symptoms in Teens

    The most common diabetes symptoms in teens include:

    Frequent urination

    Because there is too much sugar in your bloodstream, your kidneys will try to expel some of it through urine. As a result, there will be an increase in the frequency of urination.

    Extreme thirst

    Frequent urination will cause you to feel dehydrated, thereby leaving you feeling extremely thirsty.

    Dry skin and mucous membranes

    Dehydration will also make your skin and mucous membranes look dry. 

    Increase in appetite

    Because your body is not able to utilize glucose for energy production, it might feel that it is not getting enough of it. This might cause you to feel hungry more often. 

    Weight loss 

    Weight loss may also be a sign that your body is not able to get the energy it needs. 

    Slow or non-healing wounds

    Diabetes affects blood circulation, which is important in wound healing. People with diabetes often complain about slow-healing wounds.

    Numbness or tingling sensation

    Diabetes may also cause nerve damage, especially in the peripheries. Many patients with diabetes often report numbness or a tingling sensation in their hands and feet.

    Yeast infections

    Yeast feeds on glucose. As a result, people with diabetes are often more at risk of acquiring yeast infections.

    Complications may also arise when diabetes is left uncontrolled. One life-threatening complication associated with diabetes is diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA, a condition in which ketones accumulate in the bloodstream.

    Key Takeaways

    Teenagers who are diagnosed with diabetes may have a wide range of emotions. Common reactions include sadness, fear, denial, and guilt. Teenagers newly diagnosed with diabetes need emotional support from family, friends, and a professional healthcare team to help them process their condition, which they’ll be living with for life.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Ira Sagad · Updated Mar 03

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