Written by Kristen Schroeder, BSN-RN, CHES, Clinical Education Coordinator in the Community Outreach Department of Holy Cross Hospital
Currently, the number of children and teens diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is increasing.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) states:
- Type 2 diabetes [in children and teens] is on the rise.
- By the year 2050, one in three people will have diabetes.
- Children of certain racial and ethnic groups are at higher risk, including African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American children.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes means you have too much sugar (or glucose) in your blood. Your body changes most of the food you eat into glucose. The glucose then travels in your blood to all of the cells in your body. In turn, your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help the sugar move out of your blood and into your cells. Your cells need this sugar to provide you with energy during the day. With Type 2 diabetes, your body cannot use the insulin produced correctly. Without insulin, your cells would not receive the sugar they need to function and the glucose levels in your blood begin to rise.
Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Children & Teens:
Unfortunately, most of the time children and teens often have no signs or symptoms of diabetes. However, it is still important to know that the common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Feeling more tired than usual
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, it is important that the child or teen see their health care provider as soon as possible.
Risk Factors for Diabetes:
Children or teens may be at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, if they:
- Are overweight or obese
- Are not physically active
- Have a family member that has type 2 diabetes
For children and teens, the number one risk factor for developing diabetes is being overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “one in five school-aged children has obesity” and this number is expected to increase over time.
Importance of Preventing or Delaying the Onset of Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Teens:
Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. Once you are diagnosed with diabetes you will always have diabetes. Having diabetes can lead to other serious health problems, such as, blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and even the loss of your toes, feet, or legs. Diabetes progresses more quickly in children and teens than adults. Children with type 2 diabetes develop signs and symptoms of complications at a much faster rate. According to Kenneth Copeland, MD and director of the children’s program at the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center, “type 2 diabetes, when it occurs in youth, is a very, very, very rapidly progressing and serious disease—far worse than in the more typical 50-, 60-, or 70-year old person who develops diabetes”.
For children and teens that develop type 2 diabetes, complications including heart disease and kidney disease set in early. According to Dr. Silva Arslanian, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist, “By the time they’re in their thirties or forties they may have their first event—maybe a heart attack or stroke or something of the sort… only time will tell.” Additionally, the TODAY researchers have found that when children or teens develop diabetes, they experience a 20 to 35% decline in the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas each year, which is three to four times more than that in adults.
Therefore, it is so important to work on preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in children and teens that are at high risk of developing it.
Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Teens:
Children and teens may be able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes for many years by making these small changes—losing weight, eating healthy, and getting active. Losing weight may seem hard for some individuals, but with proper instruction and support it is proven to make the biggest impact in preventing type 2 diabetes.
When it comes to eating healthy, it is important to:
- Drink plenty of water
- Limit the amount of sugary drinks including sodas, juices, or sports drinks
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Limit the amount of fast food
- Make healthy snacks
When it comes to getting more active, it is important to:
- Limit the amount of time spent in front of a TV, computer, or phone
- Engage in an activity that is fun and enjoyable
- Get the whole family involved
Children and teens should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
Author: Kristen Schroeder, BSN-RN, CHES is a Clinical Education Coordinator in the Community Outreach Department of Holy Cross Hospital. She specializes in Diabetes Prevention and Diabetes Self-Management. She is also a Trained Lifestyle Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. She holds a BS in Health Education and a second BS in Nursing.
The Children’s Services Council of Broward County is an independent taxing authority which was established by a public referendum on September 5, 2000, and reauthorized via referendum on November 4, 2014, which, through Public Act, Chapter 2000-461 of the laws of Florida, authorized the Council to levy up to 0.5 mills of property taxes. The role of the Council is to provide the leadership, advocacy and resources necessary to enhance children’s lives and empower them to become responsible, productive adults through collaborative planning and funding of a continuum of quality care. To learn more about programs and services the Children’s Services Council funds, please call (954) 377-1000.
Above content provided by Children’s Services Council of Broward County.