About type-2 diabetes
Type-2 diabetes happens when the:
- pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin
- insulin made by the pancreas doesn’t work properly
- body becomes resistant to the insulin.
This is a problem because insulin is a hormone that normally helps turn glucose into energy for the body.
When the body can’t turn glucose into energy, glucose builds up in blood. This is the high blood sugar that most people think of when they hear about diabetes. High blood sugar creates a lot of health problems unless it’s treated.
Type-2 diabetes is linked to lifestyle risk factors including:
- being above a healthy weight, especially around the stomach
- not getting enough physical activity
- having an unhealthy diet, especially too much sugar and fat.
Children with type-2 diabetes might also have other family members with diabetes.
Type-2 diabetes is different from type-1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease rather than a condition linked to lifestyle.
Signs and symptoms of type-2 diabetes
The signs and symptoms of type-2 diabetes tend to develop over several weeks or months.
Signs and symptoms of type-2 diabetes include:
- increased urination over a period of weeks
- increased thirst and drinking over a period of weeks
- mood changes
When there’s high sugar in the blood, the kidneys try to flush it out in urine. This is why children with type-2 diabetes might urinate more. And because the body is making a lot of urine to try to get rid of the sugar, it’s also using and losing a lot of water. This is why children can get dehydrated.
Does your child need to see a doctor about type-2 diabetes symptoms?
Yes. If your child has some or all of the signs and symptoms of type-2 diabetes listed above, see your GP.
Tests for type-2 diabetes
Your GP can diagnose diabetes in your child by doing a finger-prick blood test and a urine test, and by reviewing your child’s symptoms.
If there’s glucose in your child’s urine and a high level of glucose in their blood, the GP will send you and your child to your nearest hospital emergency department.
If your GP doesn’t diagnose diabetes, and you’re still worried about your child or their symptoms are getting worse, go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
Doctors in the hospital emergency department might do more tests if they’re not sure whether your child has type-2 or type-1 diabetes.
Treatment for type-2 diabetes
There’s no cure for type-2 diabetes, but your child can manage this condition successfully.
The aim of type-2 diabetes management is keeping blood sugar levels within a target range.
Your child will probably have a management plan that includes some or all of the following treatments and strategies:
- medicine like metformin
- changes to diet
- weight loss
- regular blood glucose tests
- insulin injections if the diabetes is severe.
Your child’s diabetes team will work with you and your child to develop an individual management plan. Diabetes teams usually include endocrinologists, diabetes nurse educators, dietitians, social workers and psychologists.
Preventing complications from type-2 diabetes
High blood sugar levels can lead to long-term complications like nerve damage, kidney damage, vision problems, pain or loss of sensation in the hands and feet, and heart disease.
Your child is unlikely to have these complications in childhood, but they need to manage their diabetes carefully to avoid complications in the future.
If your whole family eats well and gets enough daily physical activity, you set a good example for your child and make it easier for them to stick to their diabetes management plan.
Preventing type-2 diabetes
A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent type-2 diabetes. Getting plenty of physical activity and consuming healthy food and drinks that are low in sugar and saturated fats will decrease the risk of your child getting type-2 diabetes.
Type-2 diabetes mostly affects older people. It’s unusual for children under 10 years to get type-2 diabetes. Most children and adolescents with type-2 diabetes are diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 19.