If you thought diabetes was just an adult disease, think again. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, there are more than one million Americans living with diabetes, with 200,000 of them under the age of 20. Although they face the same disease, the effects diabetes has on kids are different. Not all of them necessarily physical.
“The biggest challenge [for kids] has traditionally been that [they feel] treatment gets in the way of normal everyday things,” Andrew Muir, MD, Medical Director, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Diabetes Program and pediatric endocrinologist says.
Muir tells Parentology people often think injections are what bothers kids, but rather it tends to be the constant wearing down of being asked about blood sugar levels.
“Anything we can do to minimize that invasion is helpful,” Muir says.
One way to accomplish this is via continuous glucose monitoring devices. People of all ages can wear these devices to constantly measure their blood sugar levels, day and night. Readings are typically taken every five-15 minutes. An alarm will go off if levels get dangerously high or low.
About 40 percent of kids in Muir’s clinic use a continuous glucose monitor of some kind. He says continuous glucose monitors reduce the number of blood sugar tests kids need. One of his goals — for kids to really understand the data they’re getting so they can get maximum benefits from monitors use.
“The conveniences that have happened over the past 30 years are technology-based,” Muir adds. “They make it easier to manage diabetes, insulin, and blood sugar.”
Besides wearable monitors, a continuous glucose monitoring implant has also hit the market. A 12-year-old Claire Goodowens from Florida who lives with Type 1 diabetes recently became one of the first children in the country to receive the continuous glucose monitoring implant.
Goodowens recently told WKMG-TV in Orlando before the implant she used to prick her fingers about 20-25 times a day to test her blood sugar. She tried other types of continuous glucose monitoring, but they were unreliable during her swim practices. Her mom would have to sit by the pool with lancets, test strips, and monitors to test her blood sugar.
The implant now gives Goodowens glucose level readings when she’s in and out of the water. She also gets vibration alerts if her numbers get dangerously low.
Devices like these make it possible for children like Goodowens to maintain their normal activities while managing their diabetes.
As for Goodowens, her battle against diabetes is two-fold. In the midst of learning to manage diabetes with her glucose monitoring implant, she recently went to the nation’s capital to fight for more money for diabetes research and funding.
Goodowens wants people to test their glucose and share their experiences on social media to raise awareness about the struggle of people with Type 1 diabetes. She’s challenging everyone to take part in the social media awareness campaign, #StickTogetherChallenge on July 24th.
As for Muir, his voice is one of hope. “The future of these devices is going to get brighter and brighter. “We’re only at the beginning.”