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October 26, 2001

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Renovo, Pennsylvania, USA:

My seven year old granddaughter was going to bathroom and drinking a lot so, since diabetes runs in both sides of her family, I checked her sugar with my blood meter, and it was almost 400 mg/dl [22.2 mmol/L] (non-fasting). We are taking her to her doctor, but I would like to know if this means she will have to go on insulin. What is the best treatment for someone so young? Are the insulin pumps better than shots? Do they have better treatments now?


First things first. You are a wise person to have recognized that her symptoms might reflect diabetes, and you are also wise to want to have this confirmed in her pediatrician’s office. Even if she had some residual sticky-yummy-goody on her fingers, it might have caused a high reading. On the other hand, I presume that by the time you read this, you will know if she indeed has diabetes.

In a child of this age group, the overwhelming cause of diabetes is type 1 diabetes, which, unfortunately, must still be treated with insulin injections. Insulin pumps are certainly used in children (although not necessarily approved for use in this aged child), but a pump is simply another method of delivering insulin. It is not a mechanical pancreas that would automatically give more insulin when the sugar is high, and automatically give less insulin if the sugar is low. It merely gives the amount of insulin that you program into it.

If your granddaughter is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a pediatric-based diabetes team can work with your granddaughter and her family to find the right combination(s) of insulins that fit best to her activities and meal planning.