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People all over the world are certainly not unfamiliar with the term ‘diabetes’ including type-1 diabetes, type-2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes1.Diabetes can affect people of all ages, classes, gender, and ethnicity. Patients with diabetes can range from infants to people as old as 70 years or more.
So, are babies born with diabetes? To know if babies are born with diabetes, it is essential to have an insight into all aspects of the mentioned medical condition.
1. What is Diabetes?
In medical terminology, Diabetes is a chronic condition, occurring when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body isn’t able to make effective use of the insulin produced. The hormone that regulates the blood sugar level is called insulin. The most common effect of unrestrained diabetes is high levels of glucose in the blood or simply high blood sugar. This condition is termed Hyperglycemia.
The risks of diabetes do not just involve one organ, but rather multiple failures are possible, including eyes, kidneys, cardiac, and neural. The complications due to diabetes can be consequential as it is a chronic disorder. Fundamentally, three classifications of diabetes commonly affect people and these are known as Type-1 diabetes, Type-2 diabetes, and Gestational diabetes.
2. Type-1 Diabetes: An Overview
Insulin is a significant hormone required for the regulation of blood sugar levels. When the immune system begins attacking the body’s cells, it leads to the development of an autoimmune disease and type-1 diabetes is one such condition. In medical terms, when the insulin-producing cells, that is beta cells in the pancreas, are destroyed by the immune system, the condition caused is termed type-1 diabetes.
Due to the attack, there is low to zero production of insulin in the human body, further resulting in severe health issues. Insulin is a crucial hormone required by humans, as it is responsible for regulating the glucose level in the blood and controlling its entry into other cells to provide energy. The absence of insulin leads to the accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream, causing a condition called hyperglycemia.
Type-1 diabetes usually occurs during the early stages of life, most of the time during childhood or youth, and hence is termed juvenile diabetes. To date, the exact causes of this condition remain indistinguishable, however, genetic factors along with environmental factors are likely to contribute to the development of this condition. If you are diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, changing your way of lifestyle won’t prevent it, unlike type-2 diabetes.
People diagnosed with this condition are dependent on insulin from external sources. They need to routinely administer doses of insulin to keep their blood sugar level regulated. This procedure requires multiple regular injections or insulin pumps to constantly deliver insulin to the body.
For people with type-1 diabetes, it is crucial to monitor blood sugar levels accurately, as changes in doses are required to be made as per adjustments in food, physical activity, and stress. To avoid complications and live with this condition, you must be acquired with vigilant self-care abilities.
If the blood sugar levels remain high for a long time, it can lead to multiple severe effects including damaged blood vessels, nerves, and organs, elevating the risk of heart problems, kidney diseases, and impaired vision. In today’s world, Continuous Glucose Monitoring or CGM systems have made it easier to keep a real-time update about the levels of blood sugar, assisting in better management of the condition.
3. Understanding Type-2 Diabetes
Type-2 diabetes is a more common type of diabetes found in people. In medical terms, type-2 diabetes affects the proper functioning or usage of insulin in the body. The pancreas produces enough insulin to manage the blood sugar levels, but in case you are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, it will hamper the usage of insulin, resulting in a reduction or no transfer of energy into other cells, due to the accumulation of glucose.
In this condition, the cells become resistant to the functions of insulin, and with time the pancreas finds it difficult to produce enough insulin to manage glucose levels in the bloodstream. The constant accumulation of glucose, increases its levels in the bloodstream, causing severe issues.
Unlike type-1 diabetes, lifestyle factors have a major role to play in type-2 diabetes. Poor diet, obesity, and lack of physical activity contribute to the development of this condition. You are also prone to type-2 diabetes if you have a family history of diabetic patients, or you have previously been diagnosed with prediabetes, or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
You can develop type-2 diabetes almost at any age, even during childhood. However, people belonging to the age group of 45 years or more are more susceptible to the disease, meaning, this disease usually affects middle-aged and older people. This type of diabetes is more common in people of African-American, Latino, American-Indian, or Asian-American ethnicity.
This condition develops gradually and hence can remain unnoticed for a long time. Some individuals do not exhibit any symptoms initially. The management and treatment of type-2 diabetes involves medication, changes in lifestyle, physical activity, and sometimes insulin therapy.
Lifestyle adjustments include adapting to a well-balanced diet, engaging in regular exercises, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress. These help increase the perceptivity of insulin and blood sugar administration.
If the sugar levels aren’t restrained, type-2 diabetes can lead to some serious health issues, such as stroke, cardiovascular problems, kidney failures, eye disorders, and damaged nerves and blood vessels. The key to managing this disease is prevention.
Individuals with a family history of diabetes should take more care regarding their lifestyle, go for regular check-ups to monitor their blood sugar, and adopt an overall healthy lifestyle.
4. An Insight Into Gestational Diabetes
As implied by the name, gestational diabetes occurs in females during pregnancy and is capable of creating problems for the mother as well as the baby. Gestational diabetes is defined by high levels of blood sugar, as the body is incapable of producing enough insulin to meet the requirements of a pregnant female. Additionally, pregnancy hormones are naturally insusceptible to insulin, thus increasing the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
This condition generally affects women between the second and the third trimester and affects about 2-10% of pregnant women. Although, it is not very likely to affect the majority of pregnant women, managing this disease is essential as it poses a risk both to the mother and the baby. Women who are overweight are more susceptible to this condition.
Several risk factors can lead to gestational diabetes and these include having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, being older than 25 during pregnancy, and sometimes belonging to certain ethnicities. The symptoms of this condition aren’t noticed easily and hence can usually be diagnosed via regular glucose screening tests within the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.
This condition requires effective administration to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the growing baby. To manage this disease it is important to adopt a healthy diet and engage in regular exercising, and in some cases, insulin therapy or oral medication might be needed to regulate the levels of blood sugar.
If the condition is not under control, it can lead to various complications such as high blood pressure during pregnancy, preterm birth, and an elevated risk of cesarean section. The number of babies born to mothers with unmanaged diabetes is likely to be greater than usual, leading to complexities during delivery or a risk of injuries during birth.
Typically, cases of gestational diabetes straighten out on their own after childbirth as hormones go back to normal. However, females with a history of gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes later in life. Also, babies born to such mothers can develop type-2 diabetes2 at some point.
5. How Common is Diabetes?
Diabetes is deemed to be a global medical concern and it consequentially affects a major portion of the world population. The frequency of this disease has been increasing recurrently over time, stimulated by multiple factors that include lazy lifestyles, unfruitful nutritional conduct, a maturing population, and obesity. Most of the contributions that make diabetes prevalent are caused by the two most common types of diabetes, that is, type-1 and type-2.
Out of the two, type-2 diabetes is the more common form, responsible for the majority of diabetes cases globally. Countries with developed economies have a higher chance of type-2 diabetes being conventional. In North American and European regions, the soar in obesity and unhealthy ways of life has led to a notable elevation in cases of type-2 diabetes.
As per 2021 reports of the International Diabetes Federation or the IDF, almost 463 million adults across the world, ages ranging from 20 to 79 years old, were diagnosed with diabetes and 90 percent of these cases were of type-2 diabetes.
However, type-2 diabetes being prevalent in most nations doesn’t mean that type-1 diabetes is any less significant. It typically begins during childhood or adolescence and the causes are most of the time genetic and autoimmune factors. Unlike type-2 diabetes, the popularity of type-1 diabetes depends on the region under consideration, but as per estimation, it is deemed that 10 percent of all diabetes cases are type-1.
Another type of diabetes discussed earlier is gestational diabetes, which primarily affects pregnant women. The commonness of this type of diabetes is mainly based on factors like population count and screening ways. As per estimation, multi-nationally, the regularity of gestational diabetes is around 16.2 percent, affecting a notable number of pregnancies.
The rising implications due to diabetes aren’t just on humans but also on public health systems and economies. This medical condition if not kept under control can cause severe effects such as impaired vision, cardiovascular diseases, kidney problems, damage to nerves, blood vessels, etc., becoming a considerable burden on health resources.
6. Can Babies Be Born With Diabetes?
The main objective of this article is to let you know if there are chances of a baby having diabetes right after birth. How and when does it develop? Can it be prevented? To know the answers to all these questions, it is first important to know what are the causes that lead to a baby being diagnosed with diabetes, right after it has been birthed. To answer the question, are babies born with diabetes, let’s have a look at some risk factors.
6.1. Role of Gestational Diabetes
The main reason that leads to gestational diabetes is the resistance of pregnancy hormones to insulin3. Gestational diabetes usually occurs during late pregnancy, that is while the baby continues to develop inside the womb. However, unrestrained gestational diabetes can cause problems for your baby.
When you are diagnosed with this condition, your pancreas tends to produce a larger amount of insulin to control the blood sugar levels, but it is unable to do so. The nutrients to a developing fetus are transferred via the placenta. While insulin can’t pass through the placenta, glucose and other nutrients can.
High levels of blood glucose initiate the baby’s pancreas to produce insulin to regulate those levels. This results in the baby getting more energy than required, hence the extra being stored as fats. The baby then grows with macrosomia and low blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of developing breathing problems later in life.
6.2. Infant of a Diabetic Mother
Gestational diabetes is the condition when diabetes is diagnosed in a woman during pregnancy. What about pre-existing diabetes? Are babies born to diabetic mothers also diabetic? Pre-gestational diabetes is when a mother is already diagnosed with diabetes before pregnancy.
During pregnancy, if diabetes is left unrestrained, there are high chances of the baby being born diabetic, as it is exposed to high blood sugar levels. This can affect the mother and the child during pregnancy, birth, and after birth as well.
Infants born to diabetic mothers are comparatively larger than normal babies, particularly if the diabetes is uncontrolled. This leads to difficulties in vaginal birth and elevate the risk of developing nerve injuries4 and other fatal traumas during birth. Cesarean births are more likely in such cases.
Babies born to diabetic mothers are also susceptible to having difficulties in breathing, high red blood cell count, and high bilirubin levels5, which causes newborn jaundice, and thickening of heart muscle between the ventricles.
Chances of miscarriage and stillbirth become higher when the diabetes is not managed well. If the mother is diagnosed with diabetes before becoming pregnant and that is not controlled, the baby is more prone to be born with defects.
6.3. What is Neonatal Diabetes?
While you are aware of diabetes that affects children and adolescents, there also exists a condition called Neonatal Diabetes, that is dominant in newborn babies and very young children. This condition is caused due to gene mutation and is also termed Neonatal diabetes mellitus or NDM and usually develops within 6 months after the baby is born, and can be temporary or permanent.
Unlike type-1 diabetes which requires children to take insulin injections regularly to control their blood sugar levels, children with NDM might respond to oral sulphonylurea (SU) tablets and might not require injections for a lifetime. Neonatal diabetes is often said to be monogenic as the mutation affects a single gene.
There are two kinds of NDM6, transient neonatal diabetes and permanent newborn diabetes. While the transient version of NDM typically affects the baby before 6 months and disappears before the kid turns 1, it is likely to reappear during the teenage years or early years of childhood.
Permanent newborn diabetes occurs before the age of 6 months as well but persists even after turning 1 year old and is likely to last a lifetime. Similar to other forms of diabetes, in neonatal diabetes, the blood sugar levels7 are high and some of the glucose goes out with the urine causing symptoms like a rise in the number of wet diapers, dehydration, and increased appetite.
Sometimes, neonatal diabetes is diagnosed wrongly as type-1 diabetes and hence leads to mismanagement and improper diagnosis. Children with NDM are more responding to oral sulphonylurea (SU) tablets than insulin.
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- Galicia-Garcia, Unai, et al. “Pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.17 (2020): 6275. ↩︎
- Lee, Shin-Hae, Shi-Young Park, and Cheol Soo Choi. “Insulin resistance: from mechanisms to therapeutic strategies.” Diabetes & Metabolism Journal 46.1 (2022): 15-37. ↩︎
- Vijayavenkataraman, Sanjairaj. “Nerve guide conduits for peripheral nerve injury repair: A review on design, materials and fabrication methods.” Acta biomaterialia 106 (2020): 54-69. ↩︎
- Creeden, Justin F., et al. “Bilirubin as a metabolic hormone: The physiological relevance of low levels.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 320.2 (2021): E191-E207. ↩︎
- Wang, Ting, et al. “Recent research and development of NDM-1 inhibitors.” European journal of medicinal chemistry 223 (2021): 113667. ↩︎
- Mathew, Thomas K., and Prasanna Tadi. “Blood glucose monitoring.” (2020). ↩︎