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Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Just a few years ago, it was rare to hear about a child with type 2 diabetes. It used to be thought that if diabetes occurred in childhood, it was type 1, or juvenile-onset, diabetes. Not anymore. Now, according to the CDC, more than 186,000 people younger than age 20 have diabetes -- both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes. How can you prevent this threat to your child's health? What can you do if your child is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

The digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into blood sugar glucose. The pancreas creates a hormone called insulin to lead glucose from the blood vessels into the cells of the body to be used for energy.

In type 2 diabetes, the cells in a child's body are resistant to the effects of insulin and glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Eventually, this causes glucose to reach dangerous levels in the body.

Over time, the body becomes increasingly less able to handle all the glucose in the blood vessels. The high blood sugar can then lead to diabetes complications, such as heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes in Children

The following risk factors are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in children:

  • Being overweight
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Female gender
  • Specific ethnic groups (American Indian, African-American, Asian, or Hispanic/Latino)
  • Other problems with insulin resistance (most people with type 2 diabetes in childhood are diagnosed at the start of puberty, a developmental stage where there's increased resistance)

The single greatest risk factor for type 2 diabetes in children is excess weight. In the U.S., nearly one out of every five children is considered to be overweight. Once a child is overweight, chances are more than doubled that the child will develop diabetes. One or more of these factors may contribute to excess weight or obesity:

  • Unhealthy eating patterns
  • Lack of physical activity
  • An inherited tendency
  • Rarely, a hormone problem or other medical condition

In addition, as with adults, the risk of type 2 diabetes in children appears to be associated with excess abdominal weight. This obesity pattern increases the chance of insulin resistance and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Children

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children develop slowly. Initially, there may be no symptoms. Eventually, you may notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increased hunger or thirst, even after eating
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy breathing
  • Slow healing of sores or cuts
  • Itchy skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

It is time to visit your child's doctor if you notice any of these symptoms of diabetes in your child.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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