Type 2 Diabetes is sometimes also referred to as "adult-onset" diabetes, because the condition used to present itself later in life (typically in adults 50 and older). It's primarily considered a "lifestyle disease" -- and yet this form of diabetes is being diagnosed more and more often in children. Why are children affected by type two diabetes?
There are a lot of reasons why type 2 diabetes develops. A hereditary or genetic component is thought to be a strong part of it. However, lifestyle is also a factor: children who develop the disease tend to be overweight or obese. Carrying excess weight makes it harder for the body to respond to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance. Eventually the body loses its ability to produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal.
These days, more children and teens are overweight due to lifestyle. Fast food is readily available and a sedentary lifestyle is all too easy with the popularity of video games, television, computers, and other non-active pursuits. Many children remain undiagnosed and show signs of diabetes without realizing they have the disease. The illness might not be discovered until the child has a blood test done for some other reason.
Distinguishing between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can be complex. Your child's doctor can take a family history, discuss symptoms with you, do a physical exam, and order blood glucose tests to help determine whether or not diabetes is present.
Type 2 diabetes can be treated with a proper diet, regular exercise, and sometimes medications are needed to keep blood sugar under control. A nutritious "diabetic-friendly" diet, appropriate portion control, and a consistent exercise routine will also provide many additional benefits to a child's overall health, including increased fitness, and better cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
It is undoubtedly difficult to change anyone's lifestyle, including a child's - children are easily influenced by their peers who may be consuming too much food or inappropriate food (think: "super-sized" soft drinks), and playing video games rather than riding bikes or doing other physical activity. Modelling the type of diet and activity can help a child see healthy activities as normal or even fun. For example, parents can ride bikes with their kids, or meal planning can be a family activity.
Monitoring of blood sugar levels should also be done regularly to ensure they remain under control. Regular monitoring at home with the use of a glucometer can save extra trips to the doctor (although it's important to visit the doctor at the intervals he or she recommends). Sometimes proper diet and exercise are enough to prevent or delay a diagnose of diabetes in children -- and it has the added benefit of making it easier to lose weight. If a diagnosis of diabetes has already been confirmed, then encouragement and being a role model can help children to adjust to living with diabetes.