Type 1 Diabetes, Puberty, and Your Teenager: What You Need to Know

Puberty is often a challenge for even the most well-adjusted teenagers. Unfortunately, it can be even tougher if your teen has type 1 diabetes. Away from the parental supervision of childhood, older teens may make choices that could seriously impact their health. Often, the pressures to fit in can lead to poor decision-making, especially in our age of social media, teen drug abuse, and unrealistic body image expectations. 

Puberty and diabetes have a complex relationship; the hormones that accompany puberty can impact diabetes, while diabetes itself can impact the hormonal levels caused by puberty. Understanding both of these relationships is important for parents who want to maximize their teens’ health during this difficult time. 

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help keep your teens’ diabetes in check during puberty and pre-puberty. 

In this diabetes article, we’ll answer questions including: 

  • How does puberty impact diabetes? 
  • How does diabetes impact puberty? 
  • What should you expect from your child who is in puberty in relation to their diabetes? 
  • How should you educate your child about their type 1 diabetes?

How Does Puberty Impact Diabetes?

During puberty, your teenager will generally experience an increase in blood sugar. This is due to the release of the hormone testosterone in boys and the release of estrogen in girls. These hormones can cause insulin resistance– often impacting your teenagers’ ability to utilize insulin by between 30% to 50%. Cortisol, another hormone that is released in excess during puberty, can also exacerbate this process. In some cases, puberty can also accelerate the onset of type 1 diabetes in teenagers. 

Despite the fact that your teenager’s blood sugar will generally increase during puberty, your teenager will typically need to increase caloric consumption. This is because they are growing significantly during this time in their life. This is especially the case for boys– and even more so the case if your child is athletic. The muscle mass a male child may gain from athletic activities– especially weightlifting, will require even more calories and energy than usual. 

However, this process occurs slightly differently when girls have their periods. Prior to a girl’s period, their blood sugar will often spike, and will often drop during the beginning of their period. Every teenager is different, so the more you and your child can track their blood sugar during this time, the more you both will be able to make adjustments based on your child’s needs. 

How Does Diabetes Affect Puberty?

For better or worse, diabetes can often delay puberty in some children. This could lead to slower growth and less muscle mass for boys, as well as delayed or irregular periods for girls. Controlling insulin and blood sugar during this process may be able to stop these delays so that your child experiences puberty at approximately the same time as other children. This may have a positive impact on their social life, as delays in puberty could lead to your child having problems fitting in. Delays in puberty could also lead to your child or teen being less competitive in athletics. 

What Should You Expect From Your Child in Puberty in Relation to Their Diabetes? 

Puberty can be a time of extreme change for your children. While every child is different, many children engage in high-risk behaviors that could have an additional impact on their diabetes. These include: 

  • Consuming drugs or alcohol 
  • Staying up late and not getting enough sleep
  • Eating candy or junk food
  • Sexual behaviors or food, drink, or cigarette sharing that could lead to viruses 

In addition to these behaviors, many teens suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorders. When combined with type 1 diabetes, the impact of these disorders can have severe impacts and could lead to diabetic attacks and even organ damage. If you believe your diabetic child suffers from one of these disorders, get them medical attention immediately. This may include psychological or psychiatric care to address the root cause of their disorder. 

How Should You Educate Your Teenager About Their Type 1 Diabetes?

The more your child knows about their type 1 diabetes, the more they can do to stay healthy by maintaining a balanced blood sugar level. This is why you should encourage your child to check their blood sugar regularly. You may want to encourage them to set an alarm on their phone or computer in order to remind them to do this. You should also inform them gently about the short and long-term implications that diabetes has on their health and how their choices may impact their condition. 

If you think your teenager is engaging in high-risk behaviors that could lead to unstable blood sugar or diabetic attacks, you may want to talk to them about the risks and implications. You may not be able to stop your teen from making poor decisions. However, if your child knows the risks, they may be able to limit themselves and continue to check their blood sugar regularly despite engaging in potentially dangerous behaviors. 

While it’s tempting to harshly punish your child for behaviors like underage drinking or smoking, this could lead to additional secrecy and additional diabetes complications. The most important thing a parent can do is to create an open dialogue about their child’s diabetes and the behaviors that can impact it. In many cases, this will only work if your child feels they won’t be judged or harshly punished for telling you what they’re up to when you’re not watching. 

If your child or teen is struggling with type 1 diabetes, you should seek expert medical help as soon as possible. That starts with finding a caring, compassionate doctor that can assess your child’s individual needs, lifestyle, activity level, and personality. That way, you, your child, and your doctor can work together to make a plan that will stabilize your child’s blood sugar. This can protect them from diabetic health problems and allow them to grow strong, healthy bodies while participating in the activities they love. To learn more about getting your child or teen treatment for type 1 diabetes, contact the expert doctors at The Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Care today.

We can help! If you know someone that needs advanced care with their diabetes, or that is still experiencing issues with their health, give us a call today at 954-963-7100.