Treatments for type 2 diabetes for pre-adolescents was practically unheard of till recently. Till now type 2 diabetes was known as adult onset diabetes which struck after the age of 30. However, in the last 20 years a number of children below the age of 20 have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And it is widely believed that its prevalence in children and adolescents is on the rise. The journal Diabetes Care calls it an emerging epidemic. Young children who are overweight or obese have a very high chance of developing diabetes in adult life and hence today experts focus on what children eat and how much exercise they take. Type 2 diabetes is not life threatening at the time of diagnosis as type 1 diabetes is.
The probability of such children acquiring life threatening diseases of kidney, heart and blindness increases if left untreated. Children can also become prone to circulatory disorders if timely changes in lifestyle and medications are not prescribed. Children generally take years before they begin to exhibit symptoms of the disease. It is therefore better to be careful now than be sorry later. This is truer with children who are likely to get the disease. Parents should closely watch their children and immediately report to the doctors if their child shows symptoms of increased appetite, excessive thirst, frequent urination and unexplained weight loss. A skin condition called as acanthosis nigricans is also one of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. The short term consequences of type 2 diabetes in children are generally not grave and are easy to control. Some of the common short term problems encountered by children are dry and itchy skin, headache, blurred vision, and frequent urination. The long term consequences of this disease if not treated or cared for are very grave.
Treatment for this disease should begin early if one has to avoid long term complications like renal failure, heart failure, blindness, nerve damage or amputation of limbs. Children with type 2 diabetes do not require insulin injections like those with type 1 diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. Most children can manage satisfactory sugar level by cutting down on fats, eating less sugar, and increasing activity levels. It is needless to mention the importance of their parents’ role in all this. Parents have to be actively involved in the treatment plan and should encourage their children to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Sulfonylurea drugs and metformin also helps in achieving target blood glucose levels.
The best way is to avoid obesity in children and preadolescents. Parents need to provide balanced diet, discourage junk and fried foods, sodas, and other sugary items. Encouraging children to exercise from a young age can stop this epidemic from reaching alarming proportions.