Previously, type 2 diabetes was seen primarily in adults over 40 years of age. However, as a result of obesity, there has now been an increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in children.
What are the main symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children?
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually develop over months or years, while the symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop very rapidly.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
- Feeling very thirsty, and drinking a lot of fluids: extreme thirst, or thirst that is not satisfied by drinking your normal amount of fluids.
- Needing to urinate frequently: if you notice any changes in the frequency in which you go to the bathroom, this could be an early sign of diabetes.
- Tiredness: experiencing unexplained or new-onset fatigue, or are requiring more sleep than you usually do.
- Blurred vision: any sudden or unexplained changes in your vision, such as blurry vision, could be a sign of diabetes.
- Yeast infections: including symptoms such as vaginal itch, redness, or changes in discharge.
Some children with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms but are diagnosed when they require bloodwork for other health issues related to being overweight.
How is type 2 diabetes in children treated?
Children with type 2 diabetes can sometimes manage their condition through lifestyle changes (for example, increased physical activity and dietary changes). However, many people with type 2 diabetes take oral medications, and/or injectable medications or insulin, depending on the degree of blood glucose control.
Your child will also need to check his or her blood glucose levels at different times of the day. The frequency will be determined by the diabetes health care team.
Physical activity is also an important part of the diabetes management plan, but for children using insulin, adjustments may be needed, since physical activity can lower blood glucose levels. Your diabetes health care team can help your child learn how to reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) that can occur during or after exercise.
Are there food restrictions for children with diabetes?
Children with diabetes should be encouraged to follow a healthy diet, similar to people without diabetes. There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’. Children can eat ‘regular’ food but they need to learn how their food choices impact their blood glucose levels and make appropriate adjustments. The dietitian will work with your child to determine the right balance.
What is the long term outlook for children with diabetes?
Children with diabetes can live a long and healthy life and can do activities just like other children who do not have diabetes. Parents and caregivers play an important role when children are young, but as they transition to teenagers and young adults, it is important to ensure that they will be able to self-manage their diabetes. Start early by letting your child do as much of their care as possible, as appropriate for their given age and ability.
There is an increased risk for complications, the longer your child has had diabetes. You can help reduce the risk of these complications by helping your child reach their target blood glucose levels and ensuring that your child has regular appointments with the diabetes health care team.
Where to find support
Parenting a child with diabetes can be challenging. The health care team plays an important role in supporting all aspects of management, whether it be changes to the diabetes management plan, tips for sending children to school or camp, or emotional support to manage the diagnosis and informing others.