Approximately 10% of all Americans have diabetes, with an increasing number of these cases occurring in children and teenagers under the age of 20. Diabetes that occurs within this age range (referred to as pediatric diabetes) usually presents as type 1 diabetes, which causes the body to stop producing insulin. However, type 2 diabetes, which causes insufficient insulin production and causes cells to absorb less sugar from the bloodstream, has begun to account for more of these cases over time.
According to Dr. Hariram Ganesh, a pediatric endocrinologist at Forest Hills Pediatrics, increasing rates of obesity and economic factors are largely to blame for the increased prevalence of pediatric type 2 diabetes.
“Rising obesity rates have caused rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children to even out,” said Dr. Ganesh. “Junk food is much cheaper and more accessible than healthy options. Many families would rather spend a dollar on fast food than 60 dollars on something healthy at the grocery store. “
Children with prediabetes may exhibit certain signs, such as excessive thirst and the frequency with which they need to use the bathroom. Additionally, black marks may occur around the neck, armpits, groin, or other parts of the body due to abnormally high insulin levels. Some other signs you may notice include:
- Yellow, brown, or red patches of skin
- Hardened or thickened skin on the fingers or toes
- Blisters (in rare cases)
- Skin infections or rashes
If you notice any of these signs, you should bring your child to your primary physician as soon as possible. They can help determine whether your child’s symptoms warrant a referral to an endocrinologist or are indicative of a less severe problem.
While neither type 1 nor type 2 diabetes has a cure, both are treatable. For children with type 2 diabetes, an initial plan of three to six months of dietary changes and exercise coupled with medication may help manage the condition. In cases of type 1 diabetes, however, treatment options are more limited.
“Type 1 primarily involves insulin dependence and cannot be managed with diet and exercise alone,” said Dr. Ganesh. “Even if a child loses weight, they’ll continue to need insulin. Otherwise, they may end up in the hospital.”
Still, Dr. Ganesh emphasizes the importance of diet and exercise, regardless of any diabetes diagnoses your child may or may not have received.
“Diabetes is just one problem among many related to childhood obesity, and in many cases, a diagnosis may only be a matter of time. Parents should make a point to emphasize a healthy diet and physical activity for their children, whether that involves playing with them or finding a local place for them to regularly participate in physical recreation,” said Dr. Ganesh.
If your child is exhibiting signs that may be indicative of prediabetes, schedule an appointment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center now by calling (718) 206-7001.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.