Research shows that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children has increased considerably over the past two decades. The article dwells on the causes, symptoms and treatment for type 2 diabetes in children.
Diabetes is a chronic disease due to high glucose levels in the blood and is more commonly seen in adults than children. Type 1 diabetes wherein the body is unable produce sufficient insulin and type 2 diabetes in which the body doesn't respond to insulin properly, are the two types of diabetes that are responsible for high blood sugar levels in the body. However, type 2 diabetes is more commonly associated with adults and type 1 diabetes with children, but over the past few years there has been a significant increase in the reported cases of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents, generally between 10 to 19 years of age. Though rare, it is an acute and chronic condition that affects the child's glucose or sugar metabolism and begins when the body develops a resistance to insulin and does not use insulin properly to regulate normal blood sugar levels.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Glucose or sugar is the main source of energy for the cells in the body, which is produced by the liver and also comes from the starchy foods we eat like bread, rice, potatoes, etc. This glucose is released and stored in the liver and is absorbed in to the bloodstream with the help of insulin. But when the body is unable to produce enough insulin or insulin levels are low, it results in type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is more commonly seen in kids who have insulin resistance, are obese or those who have a strong family history of type 2 diabetes. Hence obesity and hereditary are two other prime type 2 diabetes causes.
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Though in most cases no major signs and symptoms are noticed in children having type 2 diabetes, still some common type 2 diabetes symptoms include:
- Increased thirst and appetite, as excess sugar extracts the fluids from the tissues and since the cells are not getting enough glucose, the muscles and other body organs get depleted of energy.
- Weight loss and fatigue, as the cells are deprived of energy sugar supplies which causes the muscle tissues and fat stores to shrink.
- Blurred vision due to elevated blood sugar levels that pulls the fluid from the lenses of the eyes.
- Frequent urination, as the child drinks more water due to increased thirst which makes him/her urinate more than normal.
- Slowing healing of cuts and wounds as the disease hampers the child's ability to heal and resist infections.
- Darkened skin areas or formation of dark patches in the folds or creases of the body.
The long term complications or adverse effects of type 2 diabetes in children may develop over a certain period of time, hence if not treated in time, it may lead to some life threatening diseases like cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, chest pain, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels). Excess of sugar in the blood vessels can damage the nerves spreading to different parts of the body, causing tingling, numbness, pain or burning sensation at the tips of toes or fingers. The disease affects the kidney's natural filtering mechanism which helps removing wastes and toxins from the body, hence children with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop liver disease and kidney damage. Type 2 diabetes also increases the risks of cataract or other eye infections as it damages the blood vessels of the retina.
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Since the blood sugar levels fluctuate quite often, it is important to test the child's blood sugar level several times in order to keep a record of all readings to show the doctor or health care provider. First and foremost, your child has to follow a diabetic diet plan recommended by the doctor. The diet will mainly include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains which are high in nutrients and low in sugar and calories. Along with this, the child should also try other type 2 diabetes prevention and treatment options like doing regular exercises such as running, swimming, cycling, etc. to control the blood sugar level. Usually the blood sugar level gets controlled with the diet and exercise alone, but in chronic cases of type 2 diabetes in children, the child may need some oral medications and insulin treatment like injections and an insulin pump.
The best way to treat type 2 diabetes in children is to monitor and keep a track of your child's blood sugar levels, as different foods, activities and medications that will help control the blood sugar levels mainly depends on it. Hence helping your child to maintain a healthy weight and taking good care of his overall well being will surely help in preventing type 2 diabetes in children.