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Diabetes and Puberty – How Nurses Can Help Teens and Their Parents Manage Blood Glucose

July 7, 2014
Trenton Jantzi replaces his insulin pump infusion site during a break at school. The high-school senior must change his infusion site every three days. Photo by Mark Ylen / Democrat-Herald.

Trenton Jantzi replaces his insulin pump infusion site during a break at school. The high-school senior must change his infusion site every three days. Photo by Mark Ylen / Democrat-Herald.

A new article in AJN gives crucial information on the challenges to managing diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, that are faced by teenagers and their parents during the physical and psychosocial changes of puberty.

Any nurse can tell you that it’s not easy to manage diabetes. I got type 1 diabetes when I was 27 years old and it took me more than ten years to really understand how to balance the effects of diet, exercise, insulin intake, and other factors like illness or stress.

There’s a lot at stake, too, in terms of long-term complications linked to poor blood glucose control, including blindness, heart disease, neuropathy, and a host of other unpleasant complications. In addition, there are serious potential short-term risks of diabetes like hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia that can land you in a coma or worse.

Even with experience in managing diabetes, there are setbacks. Any time of change—moving, illness, a traumatic event, immersion in a new pursuit—presents new challenges, both psychological, practical, and physical.

Remember adolescence? Did you want to act as your own nurse, pharmacist, dietitian, policeman, and cheerleader day in and day out (and without the years of training)? How can nurses help teenagers with type 1 or type 2 diabetes manage their diabetes?

Here’s the overview of “Diabetes and Puberty: A Glycemic Challenge,” a CE feature article in the July issue of the American Journal of Nursing. 

As children with diabetes enter adolescence, the physical and psychological changes of puberty add to the challenges of disease management. This often leads to increased stress for both parent and child and to poor overall glucose control with potential short- and long-term complications. During this period of transition, nurses play a central role in teaching patients and their families about the effects of puberty on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, and in discussing how the emotional and behavioral changes associated with this challenging time can affect diabetes management.

Everything you need to know about teens and managing diabetes. This article explains these physical and psychological changes of adolescence and gives nurses tools to empower teenagers and their families to manage diabetes (either type 1 or type 2) and control blood sugar. Teens with diabetes can live full lives, but it takes some knowledge and effort. Issues addressed include:

  • risky behaviors
  • depression and self-esteem issues
  • strategies for glucose monitoring, including continuous glucose monitors
  • insulin pump therapy
  • glucose targets and the glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test
  • insulin resistance
  • resources for families and adolescents, including online support sites
  • much more

So please read the article and consider taking the CE test for continuing education credits as well.—Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor

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One comment

  1. […] I got type 1 diabetes when I was 27 years old and it took me more than ten years to really understand how to balance the effects of diet, exercise, insulin intake, and other factors like illness or stress.  […]

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