Children today are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes more frequently than ever before. Michigan ranks 15th in the nation for prevalence of diabetes, and diagnoses have increased by 15 percent in the last five years. In fact, diabetes is now considered to be one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents. Like many chronic diseases, some groups, including African Americans, have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Wondering how to determine whether your child could potentially be affected by this preventable disease? If your child is overweight or obese, his or her risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes increases dramatically.
What you need to know about type 2 diabetes
The American Diabetes Association defines diabetes as a group of diseases characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or use it effectively. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
Type 2 diabetes, previously referred to as adult-onset diabetes, is the most common form. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin.
Before 1990, type 2 diabetes was rarely seen in children. Since then, the number of diagnoses in children each year has increased at a rapid rate – a trend doctors believe to be the result of the high prevalence of obesity in youth. As more children become obese, the number of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes increases at a similar rate.
Untreated diabetes can be extremely dangerous and even fatal, so it is important for parents to be aware of some of the warning signs associated with this disease.
Here’s what to be on the lookout for:
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Sudden vision change
- Sugar in urine
- Fruity, sweet or wine-like odor on breath
- Increased appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Drowsiness, lethargy
- Heavy, labored breathing
- Stupor, unconsciousness
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
- Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
People with diabetes often display no early warning signs, making it extremely important to consult with your doctor to determine if you have diabetes.
Remember – you do have control by making healthy choices – a valuable lifestyle you can, and should, share with your children. Families can help prevent childhood obesity, and even type 2 diabetes, by encouraging everyone to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet. It is also important to choose whole grains and lean protein sources when planning meals. Portion control is a key component to a healthy lifestyle, along with plenty of exercise and daily, physical activity.
Editor’s Note: Grace A. Derocha is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.