The National Parenting Center

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Diabetes

It is estimated that one in every thousand young people under the age of seventeen has diabetes. How can you tell if your child or teenager might have this disease? Symptoms include:

• Sudden, excessive hunger and thirst
• Unexplained weight loss
• Frequent urination
• Fatigue

If your teen has these symptoms, seek medical help. The diagnosis of diabetes can be an emotionally difficult one for a teenager who fears being different from peers. He may rebel against strict meal schedules, or blood testing.

If at all possible, keep management of the diabetes a matter between your teen and his physician. Learn about necessary food exchanges, and consider modifying family meals so that your teen doesn’t feel deprived or different every time a meal is served.

Encourage your teen to stay active, and to do all the things he has always enjoyed. Let him take responsibility for his own health — emphasizing that if he does what he needs to do to control diabetes, he will have the freedom to go on, and to do fun things with his friends, as always.

The teen with diabetes needs reassurance that his life is not over, but, as with any teen, is just beginning!

Dr. Wibbelsman, M.D., is an award-winning author and former “Dear Doctor” columnist for Teen magazine. Chair of Adolescent Medicine for the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California, he is chief of the Teen-Age Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. Dr. Wibbelsman is the news anchor for a Bay Area television series, “Medicine in the Nineties”.

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