Yesterday, November 14, was the first ever World Diabetes Day. Diabetes affects roughly 246 million people worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 380 million by 2025.

According to the World Health Organization, without urgent action, diabetes deaths are likely to increase by more than 50 percent in the next 10 years.

The theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day campaign is Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. It can strike children at any age, including pre-school children and even toddlers. Yet diabetes in children is often diagnosed late, when the child has diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), or it is misdiagnosed completely. In many parts of the world, insulin, the main life-saving medication that children with diabetes need to survive, is not available (or is available but remains inaccessible for reasons of economy, geography or constraints on supply). As a consequence, many children die of diabetes, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Those closest to the child – family, school staff, family doctor – may not be aware of the ominous signs.

The World Diabetes Day 2007 and 2008 campaigns set out to challenge this and firmly establish the message that ‘no child should die of diabetes’. Early diagnosis and early education are crucial to reducing complications and saving lives. The healthcare community, educators, parents and guardians must join forces to help children living with diabetes, prevent the condition in those at risk, and avoid unnecessary death and disability.

Watch out for these symptoms of diabetes.