Type 2 Diabetes in Children

by Allison Karp, Education Coordinator

Type 2 diabetes among people under 20 is rising at an alarming rate. In the past, Type 2 diabetes was strictly an adult disease, which is why it’s been called “adult-onset diabetes.” Typically it takes years to develop in adults, but as the number of overweight and obese children increases, so does their risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Being diabetic can be a tough pill to swallow, especially for children and young adults who are already facing many challenges. Type 2 diabetes means that your child’s body either is unable to use insulin or does not have enough insulin to keep his blood sugar at an acceptable level. In addition to pressure from school, friends and parents, these young people must face the realization that they will have this disease for the rest of their lives.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Type 2 diabetes is often not properly diagnosed in children because the symptoms may be mild or blood tests might not be ordered by the child’s pediatrician. Type 2 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed around the time of puberty. Common symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- excessive thirst
- loss of weight for no reason
- dry mouth
- cuts or sores that heal slowly
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- dark, shiny patches on the neck or in between fingers and toes are tell-tale signs of the disease.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Parents of either obese or overweight children should be concerned since it’s the single greatest risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes as a child. Obesity in children develops from lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating patterns, and rarely from hormonal diseases. You should also be concerned if you are African American, Latino/Hispanic or Native American since people from these ethnic backgrounds races are at a greater risk than other nationalities. Family history is another element to consider when deciding whether or not to have your child screened. Between 45-80% of Type 2 diabetics have at least one parent with the same disease. If you possess at least 2 out of the 3 contributing factors then it is imperative that your kid be screened immediately.

If your child is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it’s important to show him how to live a healthier lifestyle. A continued sedentary lifestyle will not benefit him. Consult with your child’s doctor to get the OK before starting an exercise or nutrition program. You can:
- Limit his time in front of the television and computer
- Give him more outdoor chores
- Sign him up for an after school sport
- Go out on a brisk walk
- Cutting out fast food and sodas

While healthy eating habits and exercise can combat the disease during the early stages, oral medication and other diabetic supplies might be necessary later on in life. Regardless, exercise and portion control can keep your kid’s blood glucose at good levels.

Changes – both diet- and exercise-related – should be made gradually. Set small, achievable goals and reward them accordingly. After reaching the goals, set new higher ones. Many parents find it helpful to incorporate the same changes, goals and rewards in the daily routines of all family members, not just the person with diabetes.

Just because your child has not been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes does not mean that he is not at risk. About 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, meaning blood sugar levels are dangerously high. Parents and kids should regard a pre-diabetes diagnosis as an alarm bell. Fortunately, pre-diabetes does not signify an impending diabetes diagnosis if the person makes drastic changes to his lifestyle. Remember, Type 2 diabetes is preventable.

Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Diabetes Resources

Diabetic Supplies

Insert ADW links