Type 1 diabetes is a disease that affects the pancreas and causes the islet cells in the pancreas to not secrete insulin. Since the body is not producing any insulin, your blood glucose in uncontrolled and becomes extremely high, this is known as hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia causes the body to feel exhausted; it can affect your eyesight and other issues. People that have diabetes have some form of getting insulin, whether it is from a pump, or injections. But sometimes with this make-shift way of getting insulin, too much is given and blood glucose levels drop too low, this is known as hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia makes you dizzy, shaky, and makes your vision seem like there is lights flashing everywhere, making it difficult to read or focus. There are not many known risk factors for type 1 diabetes, but some include defects in your genes, such as the HLA region and the insulin gene (Adams 2011). Other causes of diabetes include having a family history, or having respiratory problems right after birth. But with these risk factors, none of them are highly likely and are not great risk factors. In this form of diabetes, the target cells are your bodies T cells and B cells.
The exact cause of diabetes is unknown but studies have shown that there is a defect in the immune response, leading to further issues and developing into type 1 diabetes mellitus. Once the cells have been affected, they have problems with apoptosis and pass through their checkpoints even though they are damaged cells. These damaged cells then keep growing causes a growth of bad cells and leading to disease (Creusot and Fathman, 2004). There is no current cure for type 1 Diabetes, but they are trying to undergo gene therapy and find ways to maybe fix these cells before they become fatal and cause disease.
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The current study took all of this into account and conducted different tests to see how hypo and hyper glycaemia affected children’s academic skills. Previous studies have found that extreme levels of glucose on the brain, affects neural functioning because the extreme amount of sugar makes the neuron work so much harder to burn that sugar, and then the neuron overworks itself and dies out. Previous studies have also shown that severe hypoglycemia has different effects on learning depending on your age, when you developed diabetes, and how severe your glucose was.
Other studies have found that children with early onset diabetes have troubles with mathematics and verbal short term memories are linked with having hypoglycemia. Continuing to have poor glycemic control can lead to more severe learning problems down the road as well. The study aimed to focus on groups that had early onset diabetes and groups that did not have diabetes at all, and to see how their learning capabilities differed between the two groups. Having type 1 diabetes has shown to have a negative effect on your academic skills, making it harder to read, or focus or poor critical thinking skills.
The purpose of this study was to try and figure out if there is a way to stop these cells from being damaged before disease occurs, and if there are any other risk factors in diabetes that play a role on children’s academic skills. Methods The study composed of two groups at first, one group was children with early onset type one diabetes that either have or have not had a history of severe glycaemia, and the second group consisted of children that had neither dyslexia nor diabetes. The first group contained 63 children, averaging age of 9 years old and was composed of 31 females and 32 males.
That group was then broken down into two groups, one group was children that have had severe hypoglycemia in the past, forming the SH+ group, meaning that those children did have a history of severe hypoglycemia and contained 37 children, and the other group was consisted of children that have not had a history of hypoglycemia in the past, forming the SH- group of 26 children, making it a total of three groups at the end (Hannonen et al. , 2012). The group of children that did not have type 1 diabetes, composed of 90 children, 52 males and 40 females, also averaged at 9 years old.
The first two groups were screened at various diabetes clinics in Finland, and chosen based on their qualifications. The third group had been watched since birth, so that their language and learning could be studied. They had been drawn from families that had attended maternity clinics. The groups were observed while they were in third grade, in the spring semester or in the summer. There was no level of difference between sex, age or IQ level, only whether they had diabetes or not (Hannonen et al. , 2012).
Before the procedure took place, the parents and the child both had to give consent, and the parent had to fill out a detailed family history sheet of certain learning disabilities and medical history of the child. The whole assessment of the children lasted around two hours, and each child was given a break after each hour. Prior to the assessment, the children with diabetes had to test their glucose levels, and their glucose level was required to be between 4 and 18 mmol/L to partake in the assessment (Hannonen et al. , 2012).
This study took various people to try and figure out what similarities and differences they saw, to figure out the specific effects of type 1 Diabetes on academic skills. In the assessment, they tested IQ, vocabulary, comprehension, and some design related tasks. These tasks were used to view the academic skills of the children, and what effect having type 1 diabetes had on the results. They also tested reading skills, spelling, mathematics, and the speed of verbal counting. If the child fell below the 10th percentile, they were to be considered to have a learning disability in that skill (Hannonen et al. , 2012). Results
After comparing the SH+ and SH- groups, the study found that there was a significant difference in spelling skills when compared to the group of children that did not have diabetes at all. In mathematics, the SH- group performed worse than the comparison group. The study also found that there was no significant difference in skill level between the SH- and SH+ group, showing that whether you have experienced severe hypoglycemia often does not have a great effect on your academic skills compared to those who do have frequent low blood sugars. Spelling was one of the greatest differences in the SH groups and the comparison group.
The SH+ group showed 35% failure, the SH- group showed 39% failure, compared to the comparison group who only showed 11% failure in spelling words. This study showed that the longer that the children had diabetes, even only a few weeks longer, their spelling and mathematic skills would progressively become worse as their lives go on. The study though also showed that children who had experienced hypoglycemia as an earlier age performed better in mathematics than those children who experienced this later in age, but this was not tested with other academic skills. (Hannonen et al. , 2012). Conclusion
The current study proved to be true that having early onset type 1 diabetes, does have a 7somewhat negative effect on your academic skills. In most of the assessments done, children with diabetes proved to do approximately at least 10% worse than children that do not have diabetes. Another study done by Rhitta Honnonen, showed that the verbal skills of children with type 1 diabetes was “significantly worse” than the compare group of children that did not have diabetes.
This study showed almost the same results as the other study, in the fact that type 1 diabetes does have a significant effect on children’s ability to spell, and speak. There are not many studies that have tested this, and even the two studies that I looked at were from this year, but I suspect that many more studies will be done. I do agree to an extent with these studies that having type 1 diabetes can affect your academic skills, but I only think this is true if you are experiencing hyperglycemia at that moment.
I was diagnosed with diabetes in 5th grade, but I math and reading have always been my best subjects so my personal experience goes against what the study has to say. The only time I have run into issues is when my blood sugar does fall low and then I start to have major problems reading and seeing straight. I read somewhere that doctors were trying to make type 1 diabetes a learning disability, and have children that have type 1 diabetes in special classes and I do not agree with that.
I believe that more studies will be done to prove that even though having type 1 diabetes might cause some road bumps, it is not a learning disability in itself. The only flaw I saw in the study was that the researchers did not keep consistent with some of the tests. When looking at whether experiencing hypoglycemia at an early age had an effect on mathematics, I think they should have also looked at whether that had an effect on other academic skills such as reading or spelling. This study was very helpful and I hope to see more similar to this one.
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