When diabetes strikes children

October 8, 2007

What treatments are available for the growing number of children with Type 2 diabetes?

What was once a disease essentially unheard of in children and adolescents as recently as 10 years ago is now a growing concern among physicians and parents alike. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in children, and health officials, physicians, and pharmacists are taking notice and taking action.

Type 2 diabetes in children is extremely complex and often hard to diagnose; its symptoms can be mild and/or similar to those of Type 1, in which the body does not produce insulin-caused by a defect in the immune system, leading to the destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells. In Type 2, the body produces insulin but does not use it properly. The patient becomes insulin resistant and as the need for insulin increases, the pancreas begins to lose its ability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin to regulate blood sugar.

In recent years, a number of studies have been conducted in an attempt to further understand the causes, prevention, and treatment of Type 2 diabetes in children. And while the trend has been well documented, still very little is known about this disease as it occurs in children.

Symptoms

Some risk factors of Type 2 diabetes are also known and include the following:

Treatment goals

Because Type 2 diabetes in children is still considered a new phenomenon, very little is known about appropriate treatment plans for this particular patient population. Studies, however, indicate that this form of diabetes is aggressive and, in most cases, requires the use of oral agents and/or insulin.

"Overall, treatment for Type 2 diabetes is more aggressive in children than in adults," explained Francine Kaufman, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist and head of the Diabetes Center at Children's Hospital, Los Angeles.