A few years ago, it was rare to find a child with type 2 diabetes. It used to be thought diabetes found in childhood was type 1, or juvenile diabetes. Not anymore. Now, according to the CDC, over 186,000 people under the age of 20 have diabetes.
The term juvenile diabetes has outgrown its medical meaning.
“We try to avoid the term juvenile diabetes. We have two kinds or two varieties, type 1 or type 2,” says The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida pediatric endocrinologist Cayce Jehaimi.
It used to be when someone under 20 was diagnosed with diabetes, it was almost surely type 1, an autoimmune disease where the body stops making insulin. But it’s not longer that simple.
“The rise and explosions of obesity among young adults, children and adults, that differentiation between type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children is becoming blurry,” says Dr. Jehaimi.
Type 2 diabetes is becoming a heavy weight disease across the board. This type is marked by insulin resistance. Partly the product of too many pounds, it’s on the rise in the pediatric population.
“And the interesting thing is these kids who get obesity early on in life, there is a progression to these problems is actually faster than in adulthood. So adults who are overweight may take 15 years before they develop diabetes. And in children that can be as short as a couple of years,” says Asjad Khan, a pediatric endocrinologist with The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
A combination of factors is putting our kids in harm’s way.
“Some have an increased amount of food quantity that they are eating. Other kids, they are eating the wrong types of food and other kids are drinking excessive amounts of sweet drinks. And some kids it’s all of the above,” says Dr. Khan.
The result is younger people who get sicker quicker. Beginning with diet, treating diabetes is a family affair.
“You really have to control the obesity. And that’s the underlying factor there that we have to fix,” says Dr. Khan.