The Two Types of Diabetes That Threaten Kids

By Siripoom V. McKay, M.D.

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style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Approximately 16 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those Americans, more than 90 percent are Type 2 (or mature-onset) diabetics. Although Type 1, or juvenile-onset/insulin-dependent diabetes, still accounts for the majority of childhood diabetes cases, the rise in adolescent obesity has increased the incidence of Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes dramatically.

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Once thought to afflict only adults in their 40s and older and considered uncommon in recent decades, Type 2 diabetes in adolescents now represents one of the most rapidly growing forms of diabetes in the United States.

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Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body’s inability to make enough, or properly use, insulin. It can lead to several life-threatening complications, including blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease, lower-extremity amputations, heart disease and stroke.

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Risk Factors

style="FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Parents need to be aware of their family’s medical history and to discuss it with their child’s physician. Children of family members with Type 2 are clearly at greater risk. Those of African-American, Mexican-American, Asian or Pacific Islander descent also have in increased risk of developing the disease. Additional risk factors include inactivity, obesity and high blood pressure.


Symptoms and Signs

Unlike the attention-getting physical symptoms of Type 1, which can begin suddenly and result in serious illness when blood sugar levels spike, Type 2 diabetes presents a more gradual onset of symptoms that might not be as noticeable to parents. These can include:

• fatigue,

• frequent urination,

• extreme thirst and hunger,

• vision changes,

• unexpected weight loss, and

• a darkening around the neck.


Diabetes is a life-long condition that often requires a permanent change in lifestyle. However, unlike Type 1, Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Ensure that your family members avoid large food portions, eat healthy by controlling the intake of fat and calories and remain physically active, and you can avoid the onset of Type 2 diabetes at any age.