Generally considered a disease diagnosed in adults, type 2 diabetes has increasingly become a point of physicians’ concern among the nation’s youth.
According to a report published in the January edition of the medical journal Pediatrics, the rapid emergence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in obese children and adolescents has doctors scratching their heads over how to confront an adult disease that’s showing up with more regularity in the 10-to-18-year-old age group.
Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as adult-onset diabetes, affects the way the body converts sugar to energy.
As people eat food, the body produces insulin to break down sugars and starches to create energy in the form of glucose. When the body builds up a resistance or stops producing insulin, glucose builds up in the blood and could lead to diabetes complications such as high blood pressure, blindness and heart disease.
While type 2 diabetes, generally, is more common in the 40-and-older age group, medical officials report finding the condition increasingly more common in children, a factor linked to growing waist lines and less physical activity.
“Even in the womb they’re finding that it’s starting early with a mother’s exposure to diabetes,” said Kathy West, certified diabetes educator at Baptist Health Paducah.
“It’s important for parents to use better judgment on snacks. Carbohydrates taste good, and so they’re abundant around the household.”
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 31.9 percent of high school aged children in Kentucky were considered either obese or overweight, while 17.6 percent of middle school and 15.6 percent of elementary school children were considered obese.
DeAnna Leonard, certified diabetes educator with the Purchase District Health Department, said for both children and adults it’s important to recognize the diabetes risk early.
“Our big initiative is helping people become aware of that risk,” Leonard said. “Think about it now before you get to that point. Think about how you’re eating, how you prepare your meals and try to exercise, because that’s something we’re trying to get families as a whole to look at.”
As higher body-mass index levels tend to inversely affect insulin effectiveness while also raising blood pressure, people should take into consideration weight status with other factors like family history, Leonard said.
In children, the Pediatrics report suggested physicians help integrate lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise into the child’s routine in concert with medication, as opposed to solely following a treatment regimen. Leonard said it’s becoming more frequent to treat children with type 2 diabetes through this approach.
“Type 2 diabetes in children is going to be treated a little differently than in adults,” she said. “They’re more likely to be started on oral medications and not necessarily insulin. Before, we didn’t have oral medications to treat them with and there’s been studies that have found this was a need.
“There’s still going to be lifestyle changes of getting more exercise, better nutrition and better concern for meal choices.”
People can visit www.diabetes.org to take the American Diabetes Association’s risk assessment test that will help identify areas of concern.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.