Type 2 Diabetes and young people

Can children and teenagers develop Type 2 diabetes?

Yes; although traditionally Type 2 diabetes has affected only older people, with the increased tendency for children and teenagers to be overweight and less active, the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in this age group has increased dramatically in recent years, especially in North America and northern Europe.

How many young people are there with Type 2 diabetes?

It is estimated that there may be approximately 500,000 children in the US with the condition. Children born today have a greatly increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease because of obesity and inactivity. It is likely that nearly half of all people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the next 15 years will be young people

Is Type 2 diabetes more or less serious if you develop it when you are young?

The condition is equally serious at whatever age it develops. However, the complications of diabetes are associated with the length of time you have it. So if you develop diabetes at a younger age, you are at greater risk of heart disease and the other complications of diabetes, such as eye, kidney, and nerve damage.

Do children grow out of Type 2 diabetes?

You cannot grow out of or be cured of diabetes. However, the risk of long-term problems associated with it can be greatly reduced by losing weight, if necessary, and being more active. These changes can make you better able to use the insulin that you produce naturally.

What’s the best way to treat Type 2 diabetes in children and young people?

The ideal way is to help them lose weight by encouraging healthy eating and more physical activity. If these habits become a normal part of a child’s lifestyle, they may delay the need for pills and insulin injections and make any prescribed medication as effective as possible.

My 20-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. What restrictions will she have on her life?

She will always need to look after her diabetes on a day-to-day basis, which she can do by eating healthily, staying active, and taking any medication she is prescribed. However, she won’t be restricted in what she can do, unless she wants to purse one of the few careers that have specific rules relating to people with diabetes.

What is MODY?

MODY stands for “maturity onset diabetes of the young”, a rare type of diabetes that affects about 1 in 100 people with diabetes. It usually appears in your teens or 20s and is similar to Type 2 diabetes in that your treatment focuses on healthy eating and physical activity first, then pill treatment and/or insulin if necessary. There are different forms of MODY, which might affect your risk of complications occurring, so having a genetic test is important.

I have had diabetes, which I treat with pills, since I was 19. How do I know whether it is MODY or Type 2 diabetes?

MODY develops only in people with specific genes that cause a defect in the way the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas work. This leads to your producing less insulin. MODY can be confirmed by genetic testing. If several members of your family also developed diabetes at a young age, you can have the genetic test that will tell you what type of diabetes you have.

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