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Type 2 diabetes in children

Dr. Alvin Perelman  

Alvin Perelman, MD, is the medical director for pediatric endocrinology at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.

Question: “My 10-year-old niece was just diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I’ve always thought Type 2 diabetes affected adults, and Type 1 diabetes impacted children.  What might cause a young child to get Type 2 diabetes and how is it treated?

Answer: Historically, Type 1 diabetes was referred to as juvenile diabetes, and Type 2 diabetes was called adult-onset diabetes.  Today, more and more children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, so it is no longer considered a disease exclusive to adults. The main cause for the rise of Type 2 diabetes in children is obesity, though family history can increase the chances the disease will develop. Type 2 diabetes also occurs more frequently in certain ethnic populations, including Hispanics, and diet and genetics are generally the cause.

Insulin, the hormone that helps our bodies metabolize sugar into energy, is central to all types of diabetes. A child with Type 1 diabetes does not produce enough insulin to process sugar, so insulin injections are given to ensure the child can effectively metabolize sugar.  Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is related to how insulin acts in the body.  Insulin must react to sugar correctly for the body to function normally. Most children with Type 2 diabetes can manage their condition with a combination of medications and diet that help insulin work better in the body.

Good nutrition, exercise habits and weight control are the best way to prevent Type 2 diabetes in children and adults.  However, if a child does develop Type 2 diabetes, the condition is treatable and the child can enjoy a normal, active life.

Reviewed August 2010

Page Last Modified: 08/19/2010
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