As childhood obesity has increased in recent years, so too has the number of kinds of kids being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association offers some advice.
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, affecting about 177,000 people under 20 years of age. People who have diabetes cannot produce insulin, which is a hormone needed to convert glucose (sugar) and other foods into energy. Glucose then builds up in the bloodstream and can be fatal if not treated properly. Damage to other parts of the body, such as the heart, kidneys and eyes, is also possible. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
• Type 1 is the predominant type of diabetes in youth, although there has been a recent increase in type 2 diabetes in young people. Typically (but not always), type 1 diabetes develops during childhood. People who have type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections to stay alive. About one in every 400 to 600 children has type 1 diabetes, which makes up five to 10 percent of all cases of diabetes.
• Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as “adult-onset” diabetes) used to be seen primarily in adults over age 45. It accounts for 90 – 95 percent of all diabetes cases and is frequently, though not always, linked to being overweight or obese. Because five to 10 percent of children and teens are currently overweight, we are seeing an increase of type 2 diabetes in young people as well. To control their diabetes, children with type 2 may need to take oral medication, insulin, or both.
Researchers in diabetes are working to discover what environmental factors, when combined with a genetic predisposition, might begin the chain of events that leads to diabetes. No one has found conclusive results yet.
|Risk factors in a child include:
• Being overweight
• Having a family member who has type 2 diabetes
• Certain ethnic groups such as African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans
Symptoms of diabetes
Symptoms of type 1 usually develop over a short period of time. Type 2 develops slowly in some children, but quickly in others. Certain symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, including:
• increased thirst
• increased urination
• constant hunger
• blurred vision
If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a child with type 1 can lapse into a life-threatening condition (known as diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA). As we are unaware of any risk factors for type 1 diabetes, one can only watch for any of the signs of diabetes and seek prompt medical follow-up.
For children at risk for type 2 diabetes, health care providers can encourage and educate the entire family to make lifestyle changes that may delay – or prevent – the onset of type 2 diabetes. Such changes may include maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical activity.
Diabetes must be managed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to carefully control blood glucose levels. Families can work with health care providers to develop a daily diabetes treatment schedule to control diabetes that includes:
• a healthy meal plan
• regular physical activity
• blood glucose monitoring
• prescribed insulin or oral medication schedule
• directions to manage hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)
For more information about diabetes and resources available to parents and children affected by diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383 FREE).