Childhood diabetes: treatment requires knowledge and responsibility

It is not today that the Pixar tackles complex subjects in his films – those well above the indicated rating. Behind the children’s voices and catchy music, conversations about mental health, grief and even growing up are raised. Red: Growing up is a beastanimation that was recently available on the platform Disney+is a good example of this.

Created by the director Domee Shi, the film talks about the life of Meilin, a 13-year-old girl, who turns into a big red panda when she gets nervous. But far beyond the main character’s maturing process, a careful look is enough to realize the brand’s dedication to exploring the particularity of Meilin’s classmates. From skin tones to medical conditions – like the two sidekicks that sport the insulin patch on their arm.

Their presence throughout the film caught the attention of 6-year-old Alice Martins, diagnosed with diabetes type 1 at 3 years. “I liked the part about the girl in the bathroom because she has the sticker like me,” she says. “The appearance is quick, but those who live it can see from afar the insulin pump that the characters use. Alice was very happy”, completes her mother, Andressa Martins. According to the Brazilian Society of Diabetes (SBD)Brazil is the third country with the most cases of type 1 diabetes (92,400 cases) – characterized by the destruction of pancreatic beta cells, responsible for insulin production –, after India and the USA.

autoimmune disease

“Childhood diabetes is usually associated with type 1 diabetes, which is autoimmune. So there’s no way we can prevent it. The diagnosis itself is abrupt. When it arrives, the child has already lost a lot of weight, has polydipsia (very thirsty), excessive urination, very hungry”, explains the president of SBD, Levimar Rocha Araújo.

The lack of information is still a difficulty in the treatment. Both in relation to the martyrdom of parents, prejudice from others and lack of naturalization of the disease. “The diabetes that we are used to hearing is always of the adult, the elderly. I never imagined that a 3 year old could have diabetes. I kept wondering if there was any food that I gave too much, if I could have done something different. It took a while for me to accept it”, says Andressa.

Education is an important part of treatment

The acceptance of the child itself is fundamental for the successful control of the diagnosis. “Treatment of diabetes requires knowledge about the disease, insulin application and nutritional education. So, the patient needs to know how much carbohydrate he is going to consume to cover it with insulin”, teaches pediatrician and endocrinologist Tainara Emília. The doctor playfully explains to patients what is happening in the body, citing an “army of soldiers” instead of talking about cells. “I see that the earlier they learn, the more they get involved.”

In Alice’s case, her autonomy is guaranteed with a sensor that is connected to her arm and measures the blood insulin level every 5 minutes. “Sometimes it hurts when I take the bite,” she says. The device warns you about hypoglycemia (low sugar) normally caused by physical activity. “I eat a candy or drink juice”, says the girl. If the device shows hyperglycemia (excess glucose), it is necessary to control the carbohydrates. “I do it alone. I learned from my mother.”

To help spread the disease, Andressa uses her social networks (@maededois) as a knowledge channel. There, she calls herself the “pancreas mother”. “It is in the pancreas that the insulin-producing beta-cells are located. So, when you become a mother, the pancreas is trying to imitate this function, as if it were an organ itself.”

With the glycemic indexes controlled, the diabetic patient has a normal life – even in relation to the diet and the amount of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats). You just have to be mindful of sugars. “The diet of a diabetic does not have to be restricted. In the case of a child, everything must be met according to the nutritional needs of the age”, says Tainara. “Despite this, it is common for some to feel different at school and sneak into the bathroom to check blood glucose and apply insulin. The film brings us the possibility of embracing the diagnosis.”

A disease caused by insufficient production or poor absorption of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose, has the consequence of raising the level of sugar in the body.

If blood sugar is not controlled, the diabetic can have vision problems, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and need for lower limb amputation.

Constant thirst, urge to urinate many times a day, changes in appetite, weight loss, fatigue, excessive sleep, blurred vision.

In the case of type 1, which is autoimmune, there is no cause. However, type 2 is directly related to overweight, sedentary lifestyle and inadequate eating habits. “With the increase in childhood obesity, we are seeing a higher incidence of this diabetes also in young people”, says the president of SBD, Levimar Rocha Araújo.

Diet, regular exercise, and insulin glucose control are the most common. For the latter, there are two possibilities: multiple dose regimen or continuous infusion system, which is the insulin pump.

About Jenni Smith

She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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