Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, but the number of children being diagnosed with the disease is rising. Children with type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed during the early teen years. During this time, their bodies are growing and developing rapidly, placing a demand on the pancreas to produce additional insulin.
The hormones released during puberty can make it harder than usual for the body to use insulin correctly (insulin resistance). Also, children with type 2 diabetes are usually overweight, which also contributes to insulin resistance. If the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to overcome the resistance, diabetes can develop.
Diabetes experts believe the disease progresses as it does in adults. The main risk factors for complications from diabetes are the length of time a person has diabetes and the degree of blood sugar control. A child who develops type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of complications, because he or she will have the disease for a long time. Some complications that children and teens may develop include:
If a child's blood sugar levels remain high for a long time, he or she may grow at an abnormal rate-faster than normal for a while, then slower than normal later. If blood sugar levels stay high during puberty, normal changes and the start of menstruation may be delayed.
The way to prevent complications is to always keep blood sugar levels in a target range. This requires that your child follow his or her treatment plan daily and monitor blood sugar levels often. Your child also will need ongoing diabetes education and regular checkups. Other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, need adequate medical care also, because they raise the risk for diabetes complications.
Children with type 2 diabetes have to modify their lifestyles. Your child will be more successful if your whole family is involved. These lifestyle changes benefit everyone by reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease.