Preteen Julian Spencer is like most boys his age- with one big exception.
“Other then checking my blood sugar, that only takes a minute, it doesn’t really get in the way,” says Julian.
Julian is one of a growing number of children diagnosed with diabetes. He has type 1 meaning his pancreas makes little or no insulin.
“Type 1 is the underlying autoimmune disease,” explains Golisano Children’s Hospital pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Cayce Jehaimi.
“There is no question autoimmune disease, in particular type 1 diabetes, has been increasing in incident rates over the last decade. We think the environment plays a big role,” says Dr. Jehaimi.
The CDC reports both forms of diabetes are on the rise in people under 20. Type 1 climbed 21% over a nine year period, while type 2, the acquired form of diabetes, shot up 30% in the same time-frame. Every case carries an extra lifetime burden of managing the condition to avoid complications.
“This is a logbook. I put my blood sugars and how much insulin i give myself and the number of carbs,” Julian says.
At a young age, he knows the importance of closely monitoring his illness.
“It’s not easy,” says his dad, Chris Spencer. “If you go to a restaurant you’re basically guessing what the carbs are in the meal so it’s difficult and it continues to be difficult. But on a day-to-day basis when things aren’t out of the ordinary - we have a pretty good handle on it.”
Doctors made great progress treating type 1, but have an uphill climb with the obesity-linked type 2.
“We want to make sure that the child has a life as normal as possible. And we don’t want to reinforce the image because you have diabetes you have to quit volleyball or quit swimming. You can have a normal life,” says Dr. Jehaimi.
It comes down to kids controlling their disease, so the disease doesn’t control them.