39034 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Type 2 Diabetes in Children

    Learning About Type 2 Diabetes

    Image for kids with type2 diabetes article Under normal circumstances, rising glucose levels (a type of sugar) in the blood cause the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin allows the glucose in the blood to enter the cells of the body and be converted into energy. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body loses its ability to respond properly to insulin.
    In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become progressively less sensitive to insulin and, therefore, very large amounts are required for glucose control. Unfortunately, the pancreas cannot maintain this elevated level of insulin production indefinitely, and eventually the body loses the ability to produce all the insulin it needs. At this point, blood sugar levels rise. Despite these high blood sugar levels, symptoms of diabetes may either be absent or so mild as to escape attention.
    In contrast, type 1 diabetes, occurs only after the pancreas is severely damaged by the body’s immune system. The damaged pancreas can no longer produce adequate amounts of insulin. Therefore, instead of the high levels of insulin and insulin resistance seen in type 2 diabetes, very low levels of insulin occur in type 1 diabetes. As a result, sudden serious illness requiring emergency insulin treatment is quite common in type 1 diabetes.

    Finding the Causes and Risk Factors

    Obesity is the major cause of most type 2 diabetes because the tissue of overweight people frequently becomes resistant to insulin. Since physical activity improves tissue sensitivity to insulin, physically inactive people also have tissues that are more insulin resistant.
    The short-term effects of type 2 diabetes include:
    • Frequent urination
    • Increased thirst
    • Fatigue
    Possible long-term effects of type 2 diabetes include:
    • Eye disease and vision problems
    • Kidney disease
    • Heart disease and circulatory problems (including stroke)
    • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
    • Problems with wound healing
    • Reduced life expectancy

    Screening and Diagnosing

    According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), doctors should begin to screen children for diabetes at age 10 or puberty, whichever comes first, if they are overweight and have at least two other risk factors for diabetes. Screening should be repeated every 3 years. In addition to obesity, the risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
    • Family history: a close relative with type 2 diabetes (including mother having diabetes or gestational diabetes)
    • Ethnicity: African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander descent
    • Conditions associated with insulin resistance, such as:
    A blood test is done for screening and diagnosis. The most commonly used test is the fasting plasma glucose, a blood test done after a person has fasted for eight hours. A fasting plasma glucose (blood sugar) level of 126 milligrams per deciliter or greater on two separate occasions is diagnostic of diabetes. Other tests, like a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test or a two-hour glucose tolerance test, can also be done to diagnose diabetes.

    Making Lifestyle Changes

    Managing their blood sugar levels requires major lifestyle changes for children. To succeed, children need adult supervision and support. The entire family should work with a diabetes team (doctor, nurse, social worker, dietician, and exercise counselor) to develop a healthy lifestyle.
    Children living with type 2 diabetes need daily strategies to maintain normal blood sugar levels. These include:
      Planning healthy meals
      • Eliminate regular sodas, limit carbohydrates and fruit juice, and have your child eat whole grains and vegetables.
      • Count grams of carbohydrates and read food labels.
      Increasing physical activity
      • Encourage your child to get plenty of active play time every day.
      • Plan for periods of low blood sugar by carrying short-acting glucose or carbohydrates.
      Monitoring and taking medicines
      • Check your child's blood sugar levels throughout the day if directed. There are different ways to check blood sugar levels. Some methods involve pricking the finger or arm and applying a drop of blood to a meter with a glucose-sensitive strip.
      • Schedule regular eye and foot exams to detect and treat early vision and circulatory problems.
      • If instructed by the doctor, monitor your child's blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
      • To control blood sugar, have your child take medicines and/or insulin injections as prescribed.

    Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Children

    The primary preventive measures for type 2 diabetes are maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise. A diet with age appropriate calorie intake and plenty of fruits and vegetables is ideal for diabetes prevention. Vigorous daily play should also be encouraged in school and at home. Rather than spending time online, watching TV, or playing video games, children should have fun exercising.


    American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org/

    Children With Diabetes http://www.childrenwithdiabetes.com/


    Canadian Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html/


    American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes—2012. Diabetes Care. 2012;35(suppl 1:S11–63).

    Diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/diabetes/diabetes.htm. Accessed on May 17, 2012.

    Diabetes mellitus type 2 screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 10, 2012. Accessed May 17, 2012.

    Diabetes Public Health Resource. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/. Accessed on May 17, 2012

    Diet and exercise delay diabetes and normalize blood glucose. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/feb2002/hhs-06.htm. Accessed on May 17, 2012.

    Diabetes mellitus type 2. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 5, 2012. Accessed May 17, 2012.

    Hopkin K. Confronting diabetes from all angles. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin. 2001:16-21.

    Mansfield J. Pediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology, Joslin Diabetes Center. Personal communications. May 27, 2003 and June 5, 2003.

    Joslin Diabetes Center website. Available at: http://www.joslin.org/ . Accessed on May 17, 2012.

    McLean M, Chipps D, Cheung NW. Mother to child transmission of diabetes mellitus: does gestational diabetes program type 2 diabetes in the next generation? Diabet Med. 2006;23(11):1213-1215.

    American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org. Accessed on May 17, 2012.

    Morrison JA, Friedman LA, Wang P, Glueck CJ. Metabolic syndrome in childhood predicts adult metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus 25 to 30 years later. J Pediatr. 2008;152(2):201-206.

    What you need to know about type 2 diabetes in children. Children With Diabetes website. Available at: http://www.childrenwithdiabetes.com/d%5F0n%5Fd00.htm. Accessed on May 17, 2012.

    Frisch L. Type 2 diabetes. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/perc-about. Updated September 20, 2011. Accessed May 17, 2012.

    2/15/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes—2010. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(suppl 1:S11-61).

    2/15/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(suppl 1:S62-69).

    8/27/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Lobelo F, Liese AD, Liu J, et al. Physical activity and electronic media use in the SEARCH for diabetes in youth case-control study. Pediatrics. 2010;125(6):e1364-71. Epub 2010 May 10.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.