Teen Talk: Teens and Diabetes

Diabetes - Generic
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jul 20, 2015
and last updated 2016-07-04 11:50:09-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- This week's Teen Talk is all about teens with diabetes.

WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks:

Diabetes management does indeed affect the adolescent years.  Diabetes needs a degree of responsibility and behavioral control that is not typical in many adolescents.  The daily demands of the disease have an impact on the personal and public life of teens.  Parents of children who have been diagnosed with diabetes need to be well educated in potential pitfalls that certainly may occur during this time.  Like any condition that teenagers may face, a well prepared parent is going to make all the difference in navigating what could be a very challenging time.  For parents navigating this process here is some things to be truly on top of.

1. Communication.  A trusting relationship that involves listening, support, and non-judgement is critical in management of certainly an early diagnosed teen with diabetes.  Regular conversations, asking questions is key.

2. It is very important to be part of a supportive health care team.  While your teen will need some privacy with their health care team, it is important that you maintain regular contact with the team and create an approach that would alert you to any changes in their functioning.

3. Be informed about negative potential risks that also can crop up during the adolescent years.  For example, eating disorders among teens with diabetes are common.  Because of the pressure to be thin, many males and females during this time will skip an insulin injection to help control their weight.  Eating disorders are such a big risk because it is also about gaining control in your life.  Teenagers often see diabetes as being a part of life where they are out of control.

4. Be careful about teens who sometimes might make up false glucose readings.  Parents often have tremendous anxiety when the numbers are high.   This is an example of risky behavior among adolescents with diabetes who use this as a means to get their way.  So for parents they have to be very clear about any equipment they are using during this time.  Glucose monitors with memory is a fantastic tool to have during this time.

5. Parents must understand how substance abuse affects diabetes.  For example, recreational drugs may increase a teen's appetite or lower blood sugar.  Alcohol may interfere with the liver's ability to function effectively.

6. Parents you need to be aware of how diabetes affects driving.  For example, a teen who is driving needs to be prepared in a very different fashion. When blood sugar changes they need to prepared.   So help your teen be responsible for snacks, prepackaged protein and anticipate any situations that might come up that might affect their blood sugar levels.

7. Track sleeping schedules.  Sleeping for some teens can be problematic if medications are not taken when they are prescribed to manage blood sugar levels.

8.  Parents of diabetic teens, it is important that they wear medic alert identification for so many reasons.  Your diabetic educators, like the local TMH Diabetic Center can show you samples of different kinds of identification that is available.  That's why it's so important to have relationships with not only your doctor but also any available resources in the community.  This gives you access to the possibility of groups and identifying with other kids walking the same walk.  This almost always helps with most medical conditions.

Parents, please be mindful of indicators of diabetes in teens which could include the following:

-Unquenchable thirst

 -Frequent urination

-Continuous hunger accompanied by weight loss

-Lethargy and complaints about being tired all of the time

-Skin darkening, skin color changes, and in some teens, a dark ring around the neck

-Constant nausea and stomach pain

-Changes in eye sight, sometimes leading to blurred vision or other eye problems

-Yeast infections

-And sometimes, believe it or not, significant depression, which is how we became so interested in including this topic in our Teen Talk series.