Treating Children's Diabetes Is Harder Than Once Thought

Treating Children's Diabetes Is Harder Than Once Thought

Once believed to only affect adults, Type 2 diabetes has become a young person's disease, too, often because of the growing obesity among teens and children. Researchers have found Type 2 diabetes develops quickly in young people and is harder to treat.

Published May 3, 2012

Type 2 diabetes — the chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar (glucose) — was once believed to only affect adults. But over the years, studies have shown that that isn't the case anymore.


According to recent data from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), from 2002 to 2005, 3,600 children were diagnosed with diabetes each year, and of those children, 12.6 percent were African-American. There is a growing obesity epidemic among teens and children in the U.S. that shows that not only is Type 2 diabetes a young person's problem, but the rates are steadily increasing. A new study offers more alarming news.

In the first-ever large scale study of type 2 diabetes among young people, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center in New York followed roughly 700 patients for four years and found that type 2 diabetes develops quickly in young people and is harder to treat. Originally, the doctors were trying to find the best treatment for diabetes and were surprised by their findings. The New York Times reported:

It found that the usual oral medicine for type 2 diabetes stopped working in about half of the patients within a few years, and they had to add daily shots of insulin to control their blood sugar. Researchers said they were shocked by how poorly the oral drugs performed because they work much better in adults.

The results of the study and an editorial were published online on Sunday by The New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings could signal trouble ahead because poorly controlled diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage, amputations and kidney failure. The longer a person has the disease, the greater the risk. So in theory, people who develop diabetes as children may suffer its complications much earlier in life than previous generations who became diabetic as adults.

It's important to note that many of the children in this study came from low-incomes families, 42 percent were Latino, and 34 percent were African-American.

And while this news is disheartening, the good news is that diabetes can be prevented. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program offers up these prevention tips for you and your loved ones to follow.

— Aim to lose at least 5 to 7 percent of your current weight — that’s 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Make healthy food choices every day.
— Cut down on food portion sizes and try to drink water instead of sweetened fruit drinks and soda.
— Increase your activity level by walking more often.   
— For support, team up with friends and family to help you lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Ask your family and friends to help you stick to your program.
— Make time to prepare and cook healthy foods ahead of time.

Do you believe you are at risk for diabetes? Test your risk here.



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(Photo: Photodisc/Getty Images)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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