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January 3, 2000

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Denver, Colorado, USA:

Can an infant (under age 1) develop diabetes? If so, what are the symptoms of diabetes in an infant? Are there irreversible complications if an infant is not promptly diagnosed and treated for diabetes?

Answer:

Yes, very young infants can develop diabetes and can develop life threatening ketoacidosis very quickly. The usual early symptoms of drinking a lot and urinating a lot usually aren’t recognized in a young infant. The first symptoms are often poor feeding and vomiting leading to a diagnosis of a stomach disorder. As ketoacidosis develops, the infant may start to breath rapidly (due to the acid in the blood) and may be misdiagnosed as having a respiratory problem.

If the child develops severe ketoacidosis, dehydration, and coma, this could cause permanent neurological damage the same as any infant who develops severe, life threatening dehydration from any cause can suffer some irreversible brain damage — even when the condition is treated properly. Fortunately, this is not always the case.

TGL