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Diabetes Health Center

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Type 2 Diabetes in Children - Topic Overview

This topic provides information about type 2 diabetes in children. If you are looking for information about type 1 diabetes, see the topic Type 1 Diabetes: Children Living With the Disease.

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease that develops when the pancreas camera.gif cannot make enough insulin or when the body's tissues cannot use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body's cells use sugar (glucose) for energy. It also helps the body store extra energy in muscle, fat, and liver cells.

Without insulin, the sugar cannot get into the cells to do its work. It stays in the blood instead. This can cause high blood sugar levels. A person has diabetes when the blood sugar stays too high too much of the time.

Over time, high blood sugar can cause problems with the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys. High blood sugar also makes a person more likely to get serious illnesses or infections.

In the past, doctors believed that type 2 diabetes was an adult disease and that type 1 diabetes was a children's disease. Now, more and more children are getting type 2 diabetes.

Finding out that your child has diabetes can be scary. But your child can live a long, healthy life by learning to manage the disease.

Doctors do not know exactly what causes diabetes. Experts believe the main risks for children getting type 2 diabetes are being overweight, not being physically active, and having a family history of the disease.

Also, the hormones released during the early teen years make it harder than usual for the body to use insulin correctly. This problem is called insulin resistance. It can lead to diabetes.

Most children with type 2 diabetes do not have symptoms when the disease is first found. If there are symptoms, they usually are mild and may include:

  • Having to urinate more often.
  • Feeling a little more thirsty than normal.
  • Losing a little weight for no clear reason.
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