When we think of Type 2 Diabetes, we assume that it is a condition that is exclusive to individuals who are middle-aged. But did you know that Type 2 diabetes can also occur in children? In this article, we will discuss the causes of Type 2 Diabetes in children, the signs to watch out for, and how to manage it effectively.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder where your body is unable to utilize insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells in your pancreas that helps your cells take in the glucose (sugar) present in your bloodstream. In Type 2 Diabetes, your cells and tissues become insulin resistant, i.e. they are unable to respond to the insulin present in your body, which leads to high blood glucose levels.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
The exact cause of Type 2 Diabetes in children is unclear, but it is closely linked to being overweight or obese and having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes. Being overweight can lead to insulin resistance, which causes Type 2 Diabetes.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes in Children
The following are the risk factors associated with Type 2 Diabetes in children.
Being overweight or obese can increase your child’s risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. More specifically, having too much fat in the abdominal area can decrease insulin sensitivity in their body, which can cause Type 2 Diabetes.
Having an unhealthy diet that is loaded with empty carbs, added sugars, saturated or trans fats can raise your child’s blood sugar levels, which can cause increase in weight, along with their chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Lack of physical activity
Exercise or any physical activity can help your child’s body utilize the glucose present in their bloodstream along with the glucose stored in their muscles and liver. This lowers their blood sugar levels and helps their body in burning fat. A lack of physical activity leads to excess blood glucose being converted to fat, which can cause weight gain and increase insulin resistance in your child’s body.
Having close family members like parents, grandparents, or siblings who have Type 2 Diabetes can increase your child’s risk of developing this condition.
Gestational diabetes in the mother
Being born to a mother who had gestational diabetes can make your child more prone to develop Type 2 Diabetes.
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
The signs and symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in children or teens may be mild or unnoticeable at first. However, the following symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes may develop over time:
- Dry mouth or excessive thirst (polydipsia)
- Being hungry all the time
- Eating all the time (polyphagia)
- Excessive urination (polyuria) and bed-wetting
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of wounds
- Frequent infections
- Darkening of the skin in the armpits, neck, or other skin folds (acanthosis nigricans)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
Diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Appropriate and timely diagnosis plays a crucial role in the management of diabetes in kids. Diagnosis may include tests such as:
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) Test
This test helps determine your child’s average blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months. Having an HbA1c level of 6.5 % or higher is considered a diagnostic criterion for diabetes.
Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) Test
This test measures your child’s blood sugar levels after fasting for at least 8 hours. A blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher indicates that your child may have diabetes.
Random Blood Sugar (RBS) Test
This test is done at any time regardless of when your child had their last meal. A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates that your child may have diabetes.
Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
The treatment of Type 2 Diabetes in children is similar to the treatment of diabetes in adults. The treatment approaches might include a combination of the following:
- A healthy and balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Losing excess weight
- Frequent monitoring of blood glucose levels
- Oral medications/Insulin injections
Potential Complications of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Children with Type 2 Diabetes might be at risk of developing complications such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, depression, eating disorders, etc. Serious complications that may occur later in life due to uncontrolled blood glucose levels include:
- Cardiovascular diseases (heart and blood vessel disorders)
- Kidney diseases
- Eye damage
- Nerve damage
- Nervous system disorders
- Foot damage that can lead to amputation
These complications can be prevented or delayed with treatment and maintaining normal blood glucose levels.
Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Type 2 Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder that can be prevented by maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. It can be prevented in children with the following measures:
- Being physically active and exercising regularly
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Learning to manage stress
- Getting quality sleep
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic lifestyle disorder that can affect people of any age, including children.
- Obesity and family history are the leading causes of diabetes in children.
- The risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes in children include obesity, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, family history of Type 2 Diabetes, or the mother having gestational diabetes.
- Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in children include excessive thirst or hunger, frequent urination or bed-wetting, tiredness, blurred vision, slow healing cuts or wounds, unexplained weight loss, darkening of the skin in skin folds, etc.
- Type 2 Diabetes is diagnosed in children using the HbA1c test, fasting blood sugar levels test and random blood sugar levels test.
- Type 2 Diabetes in children is managed with lifestyle changes and medications.
- Uncontrolled diabetes may cause several complications such as hypertension, stroke, kidney diseases, heart diseases, eye damage, etc.
- Complications of childhood diabetes can be delayed or prevented with regular physical activity, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and medications.
Frequent urination, fatigue, slow healing wounds, increased thirst and hunger, etc., are the symptoms of diabetes. Consult a pediatrician if your child is experiencing any of these symptoms. A doctor can diagnose your child after performing the necessary tests like fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, etc.
Obesity, unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, and genetics may cause diabetes in a kid.
Diabetes might develop gradually in children without any noticeable symptoms. It can be diagnosed through regular check-ups.
Diabetes can occur at any age in children. However, it is more common in children and teenagers between the ages of 10 to 19 years.
Blood sugar levels can be checked easily at home with the help of a glucometer. However, a proper diagnosis should be made by a pediatrician.
No, diabetes is not currently curable. However, with medications, regular exercise, and a healthy diet, your child can lead a normal life.
Eating sugar does not directly cause Type 2 diabetes. But excessive intake of sugar may lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes.
No, childhood diabetes does not go away. It requires lifelong treatment and lifestyle modifications to control blood glucose levels.
If you think your child is exhibiting symptoms of diabetes, consult a paediatrician for an official diagnosis.