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Type 2 Diabetes in Children (cont.)

Symptoms

Children often have no symptoms of type 2 diabetes before they are diagnosed, because their blood sugar level has been rising so slowly. As a result, a child may have diabetes for several months or years before being diagnosed.

When children do have symptoms, the most common include:

  • Slight increase in the frequency of urination. If your child has already learned to use the toilet, he or she may have started wetting the bed during naps or at night.
  • Slight increase in thirst.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Increased tiredness.
  • Nausea.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Frequent infections and slow-healing wounds or sores.
  • Weight loss.

What Happens

Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, but the number of children being diagnosed with the disease is rising. Children with type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed during the early teen years. During this time, their bodies are growing and developing rapidly, placing a demand on the pancreas to produce additional insulin.

The hormones released during puberty make it harder than usual for the body to use insulin correctly (insulin resistance). Also, children with type 2 diabetes are usually overweight, which also contributes to insulin resistance. If the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to overcome the resistance, diabetes can develop.

Very little is known about the way type 2 diabetes becomes worse over time in children, because until recently few children had the disease. Diabetes experts believe the disease progresses as it does in adults, causing damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and nerves. The main risk factors for complications are the length of time a person has diabetes and the degree of blood sugar control. A child who develops type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of complications, because he or she will have the disease for a long time. Complications can lead to serious disabilities, such as blindness, and early death.

Studies show that when children develop diabetes, complications begin to develop in young adulthood. Delayed diagnosis and failure to keep blood sugar levels in a target range can lead to early complications. The longer a child has diabetes, the more likely it is that complications will develop in young adulthood.

If a child's blood sugar levels remain high for a long time, he or she may grow at an abnormal rate—faster than normal for a while, then slower than normal later. If blood sugar levels stay high during puberty, normal changes and the start of menstruation may be delayed.

The way to prevent complications is to always keep blood sugar levels at a target level. This requires that your child follow his or her treatment plan daily and monitor blood sugar levels often. Your child also will need ongoing diabetes education and regular checkups. Other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, need adequate medical care also, because they raise the risk for diabetes complications.

Children with type 2 diabetes have to modify their lifestyles. Your child will be more successful if your whole family is involved. These lifestyle changes benefit everyone by reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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