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Type 2 Diabetes in Children is on the Rise, and the Outlook’s Not Good

For children and teens with type 2, there’s alarming news. Diabetes in children is on the rise, and young adults with type 2 diabetes are getting sicker faster than adults. Children with type 2 are also not responding as well to diabetes medications as adults with type 2.

This disturbing news highlights a whole new generation of younger people with diabetes for whom the future does not look bright. Here are the top reasons children with type 2 are sicker than adults with the same disease.

Why are kids with type 2 sicker than their adult counterparts?

  • Diabetes is progressing 4 times faster in kids and teens than it does in adults. Children with type 2 need insulin within 2 years, and some develop complications like retinopathy and kidney damage within 3 years.
  • In 1990, there were 0 cases of type 2 in kids, while in 2012, there were 5,300 cases.
  • The growing rate of childhood obesity is one cause of the rise in type 2 diabetes in kids.
  • The main factors other than obesity are the rise in gestational diabetes in mothers, changes in the way food is processed and the prevalence of unhealthy foods, and the lack of activity time for children.
  • Some children live in such bad neighborhoods that they can’t go outside to play.
  • Air pollution has been shown to be another factor in the uptick in type 2 in children.
  • Type 2 is even worse in adolescence, when growth hormones naturally make the body less sensitive to insulin.
  • Type 2 as a teen is difficult due to the wish to rebel and have one’s own independence, but having to watch one’s diet and take constant medications.
  • Other complications that arise in kids with type 2 are heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine.
  • There are only 2 medications approved for children with type 2: Metformin and insulin. These have been shown to be less effective in kids control blood glucose than they are in adults.
  • Lifestyle changes are also less effective in kids than they are in adults.
  • Bariatric surgery is an option to achieve better health for teens with type 2, but it comes with risks.
  • Children with type 2 need access to medical care with diabetes specialists, a dietitian, and psychological support. Not all health plans will cover all of those essentials.

The future for diabetes in children

Unless serious changes are made, the future does not look good for kids with type 2 diabetes. Complications could arise in pregnancies with birth defects or miscarriages. Young people with type 2 could suffer heart problems, heart attacks, and blindness as they grow into their twenties.

The children most likely to develop type 2 have a family history of the disease, are female, around age 13, and are overweight. They are also more likely to be African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American.