Updated 03/04/2013 05:56 PM
Type 1 Diabetes on the rise
Cases of Type 1 Diabetes are skyrocketing among children. The main concern is that doctors can't pinpoint a reason for the spike. Our Katie Gibas tells us why the rise is such an issue and what's being done to address it.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- When Frankie Palladino was six, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, an auto-immune disease where the body doesn't produce enough insulin. That diagnosis forced a lot of responsibility on Frankie at an early age, from learning what to eat and when to having to test his sugar levels.
"I have to test three times at school, one at lunch, one in the morning and one in the afternoon," said nine-year-old Frankie Palladino.
His mother, Patty Palladino, added, "It's hard at school. It's hard because they're kids first and you have to be aware that they're kids first and you don't want to put too much responsibility on them."
But more parents and children than ever are having that responsibility thrust upon them. According to an analysis of 20 years of data of the Philadelphia Pediatric Diabetes Registry, the number of children with diabetes has increased 29 percent since the 1985-1989 cohort. The biggest jump was in newborns to four-year-olds.
"For the ones with infants and the ones that can't talk, that really is upsetting as a mom and I am going to now consider myself lucky that he was six because he could say to me, 'I don't feel quite right. I'm dizzy. I'm shaky. I'm blurry," said Patty Palladino.
Dr. Roberto Izquierdo, a Pediatric Endocrinologist at SUNY Upstate Medical University's Joslin Diabetes Center, said, "It is so alarming, such a rise. And we don't have an answer for it."
Since common symptoms are excessive thirst, frequent urination and weight loss, diagnosis can be a challenge, especially in the youngest children. That's why parents, like Patty, are advocating for doctors to perform a diabetes test during every exam.
"How long can that take in a doctor's office? If it's saving a kid's life, I think it's so worth it," said Patty Palladino.
There are many hypotheses as to what is causing the increase in Type 1 Diabetes, but experts can't pinpoint one thing for the increase. But they do say the good thing about that increase is that it will lead to more funding and research on the topic.
"Ninety-five percent of your beta cells or the cells that produce insulin are destroyed, so another focus is to try to preserve the cells that produce insulin because, even if it's like five percent, that disease severity is very low," said Izquierdo.
As for the Palladinos, they're constantly working to raise awareness about the disease and money to find a cure.
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