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Back To Vidyya An Adult Disease No Longer

Type 2 Diabetes In Children And Adolescents

Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been an adult disease, but according to the American Diabetes Association "adult onset diabetes is now cropping up in children in epidemic proportions."

Children traditionally are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, after a defect in the immune system blocks the body's ability to produce insulin, requiring the young patient to require insulin shots. Type 2 diabetes on the other hand, is a result of the body's gradual and growing resistance to insulin. Which, according to an 23-August-2000 Associated Press report, can be due to family history and chronically bad health habits (such as a high fat diet and lack of exercise).

The story about the type 2 diabetes "epidemic" among children is a popular one. Although the story cited for this article is from a release from the Associated Press, there are hundreds of Web sites covering the issue. The story appeared as a Reuter's consumer health release this month, it also appeared on most of the major networks as a health issue. The CDC is currently targeting type 2 diabetes in children as a major health concern. Clinicians may see a rise in concern from parents with overweight or out-of-shape children. Health professionals may wish to test children for diabetes as a routine part of the physical exam.

Experts believe that children are falling victim to adult bad habits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that diabetes has increased 33 percent nationally. The number of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has tripled in the past five years.

The good news for patients is that in many cases, parents can help protect their children from the chronic condition through prevention. Although genetics plays a defining role (45-80% of type 2 cases report a parent with the disease), being overweight is the hallmark of pediatric type 2 diabetes.

Advice for parents of diabetic patients includes:

  • Tell the child to go outside and play. Kids spend an average of 4.5 hours a day staring at a video screen.
  • Play with your child. Households where parents and children play together have fewer problems with both childhood and adult obesity.
  • Get rid of the junk food.
  • Make sure your child's diet meets the minimum federal guidelines of five servings of fruits and vegetables and 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Parents are generally asked by these consumer health articles to take their child to a physician if the child has a general lack of energy, a never-ending thirst and a gradual slide in school performance (the possible result of blurred vision, a side effect of the disease).

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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