Childhood Onset of Type 2 Diabetes on the Rise

November 9, 2015 5:47 pm
T2 Child Blog

A recent and shocking buzz that pulsed across Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds in the diabetes community was the story of a three-year-old girl from Texas who became the youngest known person to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  The toddler weighed in at 35 kilograms (77 pounds) and presented to her doctor with tale tell symptoms of extreme thirst and frequent urination.[1] During the last two decades, children have increasingly met the criteria for the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Such a diagnosis was extremely uncommon that type 2 diabetes carried the label of adult onset diabetes. Nowadays, up to 20% of all type 2 diagnoses are in children under the age of 19. [2]

Some of the signs that your child may be developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • More frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Acanthosis Nigricans – a skin condition in which a patch of very dark, velvety, and rippled skin develops under the arm, nape of the neck, or between the fingers and toes. [3]

Should you recognize any combinations of symptoms in your child, be sure to make an appointment with the pediatrician.  What has changed in the past twenty years that is making children more susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes? Well, the same thing that is causing the number of adult type 2 diabetes cases to escalate; in general a poor diet and lack of activity which is leading to a worldwide rise in obesity.  For adults and children alike, making changes in diet and exercise can prevent or even reverse a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, as it luckily did for the Texas toddler. If you are the parent of a child at risk of developing or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Dario Diabetes Management System can help you monitor what the overall picture of your kids’ meals and blood glucose measurements.

Healthy eating is key to the prevention of type 2 diabetes in youth. While parents cannot be around 24/7 to control what their children are eating, you can greatly influence your kids’ eating habits by the example you set at home. It is granted that it is not always practical to have a three-course organic, farm-raised chicken dinner ready on the table when you are working full-time and driving your kids from school to football practice to sleepovers, and study groups. However, planning ahead and taking simple short cuts to cut back on unnecessary sugar intake like no sugary soft drinks at the dinner table or simply using smaller plates to control portion size can make a big impact. If fast food or dining out several times a week is a necessity, try and pick places that have healthier options. Parents should align with each other on what foods are acceptable for their kids (sorry Mom, but Dad always bought us a box of magically delicious, marshmallow filled Lucky Charms that we had to finish by the time you came back from your work trips – he ate it too!)

As it starts to get colder in some parts of the world and are children are globally distracted by their smartphones, texting, Facebook and more it can be hard to motivate kids to get outdoors and get moving. Not only are physical activity and sport important to burning needed calories, it is also important for social and motor development in your kids. If you notice that your child is less active and gaining weight it can be a difficult conversation to have. Make sure there are no underlying medical conditions or social situations that are causing a decline in your child’s activity or an increase in their weight. It is delicate balance to talk to your child about gaining weight while encouraging positive body image. If you child’s weight is a concern, finding fun ways to exercise with them is great for bonding and motivating your child towards their health goals.

[1] http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/obese-three-year-old-youngest-known-case-type-2-diabetes

[2] http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/diabetes-13/misc-diabetes-news-181/type-2-diabetes-and-kids-the-growing-epidemic-644152.html

[3] NDEP. Overview of Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. National Diabetes Education Program (NIH).