Our Cause

Helping Children with Diabetes

More than one million Americans have juvenile (Type 1) diabetes—a disease which strikes children suddenly, makes them insulin dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications.  Someone is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes every hour.  It can and does strike adults as well.  In juvenile diabetes, a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone necessary to sustain life. Although the causes are not entirely known, scientists believe the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.  It is not caused by obesity or by eating excessive sugar, which are two common myths about juvenile diabetes. The risk of juvenile diabetes is higher than virtually all other severe chronic diseases of childhood. Juvenile diabetes tends to run in families. Brothers and sisters of a child with juvenile diabetes have at least 100 times the risk of developing juvenile diabetes as a child in an unaffected family. Approximately 35 American children are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes every day

The Truth About Juvenile Diabetes
  • AFFECTS YOUNG CHILDREN: It’s one of the most costly, chronic diseases of childhood and one you never outgrow.
  • INSULIN DOES NOT CURE IT: While insulin allows a person to stay alive, it does not cure diabetes nor does it prevent its eventual and devastating effects: kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack and stroke.
  • NEEDS CONSTANT ATTENTION: To stay alive, those with juvenile diabetes must take multiple insulin injections daily or continually infuse insulin through a pump, and test their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times per day. While trying to balance insulin injections with their amount of food intake, people with juvenile diabetes must constantly be prepared for potential hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening.
  • DIFFICULT TO MANAGE: Despite rigorous attention to maintaining a healthy diet, exercise regimen, and always injecting the proper amount of insulin, many other factors can adversely affect a person’s blood-sugar control including: stress, hormonal changes, periods of growth, physical activity, medications, illness/infection, and fatigue.
Statistics and Warning Signs
  • Even with insulin, juvenile diabetes usually results in a drastic reduction in quality of life and shortens the average life span by 15 years.
  • Each year approximately 13,000 children are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. That’s 35 children each and every day.
  • Warning signs of juvenile diabetes include: extreme thirst, frequent urination, drowsiness or lethargy, increased appetite, sudden weight loss for no reason, sudden vision changes, sugar in urine, fruity odor on breath, heavy or labored breathing, stupor or unconsciousness. These may occur suddenly.
What is it like to have juvenile diabetes?

Ask people who have juvenile diabetes.  It’s difficult.  It’s upsetting.  It’s life threatening.  It doesn’t go away.

— Actress Mary Tyler Moore, JDRF’s International Chairman
“I’ve had juvenile diabetes for over 30 years.  It changes everything about a person’s life. And to add to the day-in, day-out hassles of living with diabetes – the balancing of diet, exercise, and insulin, the shots, the terrible episodes of low blood sugar, the weird feelings of high blood sugar – is the knowledge that even if you do all you can to be as normal as possible, you’re not, you’re different, and you face the uncertainty of a life visited upon by early death, blindness, kidney failure, amputation, heart attack or stroke.”

— Patrick Finan, 16, New York
“Diabetes is always there. There’s never a vacation. It’s a like a bad dream that lasts all day, all year, for my entire life.”

— Julie Polatchek, 14, California
“I am thirteen years old and I can’t imagine having diabetes for the rest of my life.  I can’t imagine going blind and never seeing my parents’ faces or flowers or my animals.  I can’t imagine losing a leg and never being able to dance or walk normally again.  And I can’t imagine giving myself thousands and thousands of more shots.”

— Brian Pitt, 17, Florida
“I passed out in math class on my first day of high school.  The kids all thought I was on drugs, and the teacher didn’t do anything.  I woke up on the floor and they sent me to the office.  Apparently no one remembered that I had diabetes.”

— Caroline Rowley, 12, Texas
“I’d give everything in the world for just one day free of diabetes, but I can’t until they find a cure.  If  people don’t start to understand how serious juvenile diabetes is, I might go blind and never make my dreams come true.”

From Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Fact Sheet