In 2011, 5,000 children had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Once believed to be an illness only adults were diagnosed with, an estimated 5,000 children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes yearly. A diagnosis of diabetes, which is a disorder of the human metabolism that affects the use and production of insulin, can effect the whole body and lead to complications for the rest of the patient’s life. If you believe your child is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, talk to your child’s pediatrician right away.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

In type 2 diabetes, the body can not use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, properly. This is referred to as insulin resistance and is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes. Insulin assists in spreading glucose (sugar) to be converted into energy. Insulin resistance makes it so that the body becomes starved of this energy as the glucose isn’t transported properly, resulting in high blood glucose levels, or hyperglycemia.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

There are many reasons why someone can become at risk for type 2 diabetes. A major risk factor of developing type 2 diabetes is a family history of the disease. If one has a parent or sibling that has been diagnosed with diabetes, the risk increases. This also goes for children whose mother was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy. This can also lead to a heightened risk of developing diabetes for both mother and baby.

Research shows that another one of the top causes of type 2 diabetes is obesity and being overweight. Although it is not exactly clear why some people develop insulin resistance, a lack of physical activity and obesity are factors. At all ages, increasing body weight can make for a greater risk of type 2 diabetes. The disease is being diagnosed in more children each year as a consequence of the increasing number of children suffering from childhood obesity.

Complications of Diabetes

A diagnosis of diabetes can not only bring a set of its own complications, but it can also leave those diagnosed at an increased risk of many other health complications. Unfortunately, children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be at an even higher risk of these health complications than adults diagnosed. Some of the major complications that can follow a type 2 diabetes diagnosis include, but are not limited to:

  • Stroke
  • Sudden Death
  • Diabetic Eye Disease
  • Vision Loss
  • Blindness
  • Heart Attack
  • Kidney Failure

As childhood-diagnosed patients grow into young adults, they are often prescribed medications to assist in their treatment plans. These medications can have major side effects that come with them as well, some more severe than the symptoms they are trying to treat. Some of these prescribed drugs come with symptoms that go away once the body gets used to the medication, while others have critical side effects so devastating that patients are filing lawsuits against their manufacturers. Drugs like Invokana for example, in which the purpose is to stop the body from reabsorbing blood glucose back into the bloodstream, has shown to cause ketoacidosis, the need for lower-limb amputations, and rare genital infections.

Can Diabetes be Prevented?

Diabetes can be prevented in children by encouraging children to eat healthier foods and limit sugary foods and drinks. A healthy diet that consists of nutrient-rich, low-fat foods including whole grain cereals and breads, dairy products, fruits, lean proteins, and vegetables, can greatly decrease their risk of developing the disease.

The disease can also be prevented by limiting video game and TV time and increasing the time children spend being physically active. It is recommended to exercise 5 days a week for just 30 minutes to avoid a diagnosis. This can be anything from an after school sport to walking the family dog every day.

Children who are at risk can suffer severely from the complications of diabetes. If you believe your child is at risk of developing diabetes, talk to your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible to avoid a diagnosis.