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Type 2 Diabetes in Teens: Care Instructions


Type 2 diabetes develops when your body can't make enough insulin or can't use insulin very well.

Insulin helps your body turn sugar into energy. If you don't have enough insulin, sugar builds up in your blood and can cause other health problems. These include diseases of the heart, large blood vessels, eyes, nerves, and kidneys.

It's important to try to avoid more serious problems by keeping your blood sugar in your target range. You can do this if you eat healthy foods and get enough exercise.

At this time in your life, diabetes may seem like a lot to deal with. You may want to ignore it. You might like to go to bed late, sleep in, and eat at irregular times. Lots of people do at your age.

But now is the perfect time to learn how to manage your diabetes. You're at a good age to be more responsible for your own health. This includes paying attention to your blood sugar levels, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of exercise.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you're having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Work with your doctor and your family to create a plan. Your plan will help you take responsibility for your:
    • Testing. Check and write down your blood sugar as much as your doctor tells you to. It's important to also write down any symptoms you have and any changes in your activities, diet, or insulin use. This information will help your doctor know how you are doing. Then your doctor can adjust your treatment if needed.
    • Diet. Eat healthy foods. These include whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables.
    • Fluids. Drink plenty of unsweetened fluids, like water.
    • Exercise. Get plenty of exercise every day. Go for a walk or jog, ride your bike, or play sports with friends.
    • Drinking. Teens may use alcohol for many reasons, but alcohol may cause low blood sugar and can mask symptoms of low blood sugar.
    • Smoking. Don't smoke. Smoking affects your blood vessels. It can also lead to diabetes problems earlier in life.
  • Work with your doctor to write up a sick-day plan for what to do on days when you are sick. Your blood sugar can go up or down, depending on your illness and whether you can keep food down. Call your doctor when you are sick, to see if you need to adjust your pills or insulin.
  • Talk to your doctor, your parents, your friends, or a counsellor if you feel afraid, sad, angry, or even guilty about having diabetes.
  • Find out the rules at your school about carrying your own medicines and blood sugar meter. Many schools require you to get special permission or to keep your supplies at the school.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your blood sugar is very high or very low.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your blood sugar stays outside the level your doctor set for you.
  • You have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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