SHREVEPORT, La. — Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult onset diabetes because it was rare in children. But in the last 10 years, the prevalence of childhood type 2 diabetes has climbed at an alarming rate.
A big factor is childhood obesity. A poor diet and lack of exercise is never good for our health. Obesity is a condition that contributes to high glucose levels.
“If you have a poor diet, then chances are you’re going your risk for developing obesity is higher. And that is one of the risk factors for therefore developing diabetes,” said Dr. Monica Haynes, a pediatrician with Willis Knighton Health System.
Family history plays a role, as can ethnicity.
“We know that African Americans we know that Asians, American Indians, Pacific Islanders that they’re at increased risk to develop diabetes,” Haynes said.
Haynes says knowledge is power.
“Reviewing with your physician your background, your family’s history, your ethnicity, those kind of things will definitely help the doctor know whether you’re at risk,” she said.
So, what signs may point to a child having diabetes?
“If you notice your child suddenly starting to urinate more frequently, having increased thirst. If you notice that perhaps they’re suddenly more fatigued than they used to be,” Haynes said. “If they’re having complaints with vision, blurred vision. At that point, usually, this has been going on for a while.”
Diagnosis is often done at the pediatrician’s office with a fasting glucose test.
“We can do a little a little finger poke and check and see what your glucose is. It should be under 100. If it’s between 100 to about 125. That’s considered impaired, not diabetes, but impaired. And certainly that kind of raises a red flag,” Haynes explained. “126 or higher with a fasting glucose, that’s diabetes.”
Treatment usually involves medication and lifestyle modifications, specifically diet and exercise.
“However, if that fails,” Haynes said, “insulin would be the next step.”
With school back in session for many kids, parents of children with diabetes must make sure they have a plan in place, and communicate that plan with their child’s school.
“One of the most important things a parent can do is make sure that they complete their medical forms prior to the start of school,” said Haynes. “The school administration, most of the public schools have school nurses that review those plans and have action plans set up in place for that.”
Left untreated, childhood diabetes can result in severe consequences.
“It can damage your heart, as far as increasing your risk for heart attack, stroke. It can cause abnormal lipid levels, it can increase your risk for having kidney problems, eye problems, neurological problems,” said Haynes.
While there is no cure, it can reversed, sometimes simply with lifestyle modifications.
“Certainly, we’ve seen some kids have repeat glucose testing where their levels have come back to normal,” Haynes said.
While at school, children with diabetes need to be watched by teachers and school nurses, which is why parents creating a plan is so important. Things as simple as a child not feeling well enough to play at recess or skipping a school lunch can have dangerous consequences.