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Diabetes Type-2 Risk Factors and Warning Signs

What is diabetes?

Having diabetes means that there is too much sugar (glucose) in your child’s blood. The body breaks down some of the foods your child eats into sugar. The blood carries the sugar to the cells of the body. Your child needs some sugar in his cells for energy, but too much sugar in the blood is not good for your child’s health.

Diabetes is caused by a problem with the way the body makes or uses insulin. Insulin is made by the pancreas, which is an organ in the upper belly. Your child’s body uses insulin to help move sugar from the blood into the cells. When your child does not have enough insulin or has trouble using the insulin the body makes, sugar cannot get into the cells and builds up in your child’s blood.

The 2 main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes happens when the pancreas stops making insulin. It is more common in children, teens, and young adults than type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes happens when the body gradually loses its ability to use its own insulin or stops making enough insulin. It can start in childhood.

Healthcare providers don’t know how to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes, which is much more common than type 1, can often be prevented by controlling risk factors.

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes that you cannot control include:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • A family background of Alaska Native, American Indian, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Gestational diabetes during pregnancy, or your baby weighed 9 pounds or more at birth
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormone problem that affects a woman’s ovaries
  • Being born premature

Risk factors that you may be able to control include:

  • Being overweight
  • Eating a high calorie or high fat diet
  • Getting little or no exercise
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease
  • Prediabetes (your child’s blood sugar is higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be called diabetes)

What are the warning signs of diabetes?

One of the problems with type 2 diabetes is that it may not cause symptoms for months or years. That’s why it’s important to have regular checkups. When diabetes does start to cause symptoms, they may include:

  • Feeling unusually thirsty
  • Urinating a lot
  • Unexpected weight gain or weight loss
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Skin infections
  • Slow healing of wounds or sores
  • Blurry vision
  • Repeated yeast infections of the vagina

Why is it important to prevent and treat diabetes?

Untreated diabetes can cause serious problems. Diabetes can damage small blood vessels and nerves, causing problems in the eyes, heart, brain, kidneys, skin, and feet. A very high blood sugar can cause life-threatening problems.

How can I help my child?

  • Keep your child’s weight under control, particularly if you have a family history of diabetes. If your child is overweight, make sure your healthcare provider checks his blood sugar every year.
  • Make sure your child has regular medical checkups as often as recommended. Don't wait for serious problems before seeing your child’s healthcare provider.
  • Watch for the warning signs of diabetes.
  • Make sure that your child eats a low-fat diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, fiber, and lean protein. Avoid the white foods, like sugar, white flour products (such as white bread, biscuits, pancakes), white potatoes, and white rice. Help your child eat more whole grains--for example, whole wheat flour, bran, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice. You may want to work with a dietitian to set up a diet program that meets your child’s needs.
  • Help your child to exercise regularly, according to your healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Children with diabetes are faced with the same pressures as other kids. They may be curious about smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs. Smoking speeds up damage to the heart and blood vessels. Alcohol and drugs can affect blood sugar and can cause nerve damage over time. Talk to your child about the risks of smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-07
Last reviewed: 2015-01-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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