Diabetes in children
Diabetes is normally not associated with children , but with obese, well-to-do, middle-aged individuals. But now incidence of diabetes in children, especially among the middle and lower income groups, is rapidly increasing. The last 30 years has seen a threefold increase in the number of cases of childhood diabetes.
In Europe and America, Type 2 diabetes has been seen for the first time in young people. This is probably in part caused by the increasing trend towards obesity in society.
Why should I be aware of this?
- There are more chances of a child with diabetes developing complications than a person getting diabetes in middle age.
- It is very difficult to control diabetes in children control in children and teenagers as hormonal changes and rebelliousness combine to make treatment especially challenging.
- Girls with diabetes are feted to go through their subsequent pregnancies and deliveries as diabetic patients, with increased danger to both mother and baby.
All about diabetes in children
Diabetes was prevalent among children even in the past. However, most children had Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes in the past. Type 1 diabetes damages the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas, rendering the individual incapable of secreting enough insulin to maintain blood sugars at normal levels. The disease can be fatal if left untreated. If it is inadequately treated it can lead to complications such as eye disease, heart disease and kidney disease. Lifelong treatment with insulin injections, along with strict adherence to diet and lifestyle advice, can help patients to live a near-normal life and avoid complications.
Increase in Type 2 disbetes
The number of Type 2 diabetes is steadily increasing in prevalence throughout the world and is now affecting individuals at younger and younger ages. Whereas it was rare to find a 20 year old person with Type 2 diabetes 10 years ago, nowadays it is affecting even teens.
Unfortunately it’s still not known which exact gene causes Type 2 diabetes. Even if we did discover any of those genes, it might not be of much help in preventing or treating the disease. In any case, hereditary factors cannot explain the increased prevalence of diabetes in the last 30 years — after all, genes do not change in such a short time!
Causes of rise in Type 2 diabetes
One of the reasons attributed to the rise in number of type 2 diabetes among children is the drastic changes in lifestyle over the past 30 years. Most of children’s time is taken up in studies, with little left for sports and games. Any free time is spent in front of the TV or computer.
Food habits have changed to calorie-rich junk foods, leading to rise in obesity, and along with it, childhood Type 2 diabetes. In addition to Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes, there are other forms of diabetes with affect children, such as maturity onset diabetes of youth (MODY) and fibrocalculous pancreatic diabetes. But these are rare and do not have the danger of rising to epidemic proportions.
What can I do?
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and it takes only simple lifestyle modification.
The first step is to identify those children at highest risk for developing diabetes. These are children whose father or mother or both have the disease. Obesity is a symptom that the disease is possible to occur. In girls there is often evidence of polycystic ovary disease with irregular periods and some signs of virilism including excessive facial hair growth.
Once these are identified, the following measures can help:
- Encourage regular physical activity. This is an essential step in any diabetes prevention program.
- Set aside time for games and physical exercise.
- Parents should also serve as role models by indulging in regular exercise themselves and making exercise a family activity.
- Keep sedentary activities like TV viewing to a minimum.
- Reduce intake of junk foods, fried items and soft drinks and encouraging consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In the first official audit in the UK, it was confirmed that the vast majority (97 per cent) of childhood cases are type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition that requires daily monitoring and injections of insulin.
Britain has the fourth-highest incidence in Europe of type 1 diabetes among children but the lowest proportion of children maintaining good diabetes control. Four out of five are said to have problems monitoring their blood sugar level effectively. 
- Diabetes in children: Emerging epidemic
- Thousands of children revealed to be suffering from diabetes
- ↑ Times Online