Diabetes mellitus, a disease in which the body is unable to properly utilize glucose, has now reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In fact, more than thirty million Americans were estimated to suffer from diabetes mellitus in 2015. While the majority of cases were noted in adults, an alarming 132,000 cases were noted in children under the age of eighteen. If your concerned that your child might currently or eventually suffer from juvenile type 2 diabetes, here are some of your questions answered, as well as a look into how you can help your child avoid this issue.

Why are children at increasing risk of being diagnosed with diabetes? 

Many medical researchers now believe that weight gain caused by inactivity and poor diet are responsible for the increased numbers of diabetes diagnoses in all age groups, and especially in children. This belief is supported by the fact that type 2 diabetes, once known as adult-onset diabetes and rarely diagnosed in children is now a factor in some 45% of cases of childhood diabetes diagnoses. 

What are the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes found in children?

Because a child's body is growing and developing at a fast pace, it can be difficult for parents to detect the subtle changes that may indicate a child is developing diabetes. These can include: 

  • increased thirst or hunger
  • increased need to urinate
  • sores that heal more slowly or develop infections that seem unresponsive to treatment
  • changes in skin color due to insulin resistance, with areas of darker than normal skin in the neck or armpit regions

How can parents help their children avoid a diabetes diagnosis? 

Although heredity can certainly play a role in the level of risk a child will have of developing diabetes, most experts agree that poor diet and an inactive lifestyle definitely increase the risk. Parents who want to help their child live a healthier life can start by taking a few simple actions. These include: 

  • eliminate or decreasing sugary snacks and drinks from the family diet 
  • teach children good nutrition by involving them in shopping, planning, and preparing healthier meals and snacks  
  • become more active as a family on a daily basis by biking, walking, swimming, dancing, or playing active games together each day
  • encourage children to pursue an active sport or activity to provide both enjoyment and a higher activity level

Parents who are concerned about their child's risk of developing any form of diabetes or other serious disease should consult with a pediatric services provider for more information. In addition to a physical examination, your child's medical team may order blood sugar testing to ensure an accurate diagnosis and help them provide the best treatment option.