What is Neonatal Diabetes?

Meshell Powell

Neonatal diabetes is a form of diabetes mellitus that is diagnosed within the first few months of life. Diabetes mellitus is characterized by an inability of the body to properly produce or store blood sugars known as glucose. Neonatal diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to release an adequate amount of the hormone known as insulin as a response to high blood sugar levels. Babies born with neonatal diabetes are often born smaller than healthy babies and may have feeding problems. Insulin replacement therapy, conducted either orally or by injection, is the typical treatment method for those born with neonatal diabetes.

Infants born with neonatal diabetes will require IV fluids.
Infants born with neonatal diabetes will require IV fluids.

It is believed that neonatal diabetes is caused by a gene mutation involving the gene referred to as the KCNJ11 gene. This condition often causes the baby to have growth-related impairments before birth, causing a low birth weight. Other potential symptoms include lethargy, feeding problems, and dehydration. This form of diabetes is considered rare, although it is often misdiagnosed as another form of diabetes known as type 1 diabetes. It is believed that a mother who has diabetes during pregnancy has a greater chance of having a baby born with the disease.

Neonatal diabetes is believed to be caused by a gene mutation.
Neonatal diabetes is believed to be caused by a gene mutation.

Blood tests can often assist the medical team in diagnosing neonatal diabetes. Insulin therapy is typically needed in order to achieve a normal blood sugar level. These medications can be given orally or by injection, although it is more typical to give them through an IV. Fluids are often given through the IV as well because dehydration and feeding problems are common in infants born with neonatal diabetes.

With an early diagnosis and proper treatment, neonatal diabetes often resolves without causing any permanent health concerns. In some patients, however, diabetes becomes a lifelong problem, and blood sugar levels will need to be monitored regularly and treated accordingly. Regular visits to the doctor are important so that the overall health of the patient can be monitored and any signs of complications can be addressed immediately.

Many patients born with this type of diabetes will be able to live normal lives with no further blood sugar abnormalities. The doctor may order tests, such as an ultrasound, to monitor the function of the pancreas. In a lot of cases, the pancreas will start to release insulin normally after the initial treatment with insulin therapy. The child's doctor will be able to answer any questions and address any concerns the parents may have concerning proper diet and nutrition for the diabetic infant.

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