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Transforming Health: type 2 diabetes in children

Written by Matt Paul, Reporter/Producer | Sep 26, 2013 2:12 PM
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(Harrisburg) -- Traditionally, type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed in people at least 40 years of age. But, lately, health care providers are finding more and more children with the disease.

"Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult onset diabetes because it's related to weight gain and as the population ages, the population tends to gain weight. So it was a disease that was associated with weight gain in middle life," explains Penn State Hershey Endocrinologist Dr. Margaret D'Arcangelo.

"We didn't see it in children because most children were not overweight."

But more than 30 percent of children are now considered overweight or obese.

Dr. Neal Friedman is an endocrinologist at WellSpan Health and medical director for South Central Preferred. He says type 2 diabetes is not only becoming more common in children, but it's harder for them to change behaviors to better manage the disease.

"Most of the complications we're seeing now are in people with type 2 diabetes, especially in people who develop type 2 diabetes as kids," Dr. Friedman explains. "So these children with diabetes in adolescence have a much higher risk of developing end state kidney disease, neuropathy, amputations, and heart attacks at very young ages."

Health care providers have neither the same experience treating children with type 2 diabetes, nor the same array of prescription drugs as they do to treat adults.

Regardless, Dr. Friedman says the treatment starts with lifestyle changes.

"When you treat an adult with type 2 diabetes you need family collaboration, but if you're treating a child with type 2 diabetes you're treating the entire family," Friedman says. "So I can't see a child with type 2 diabetes without having the entire family involved and willing to change their behaviors and willing to work with that child."

He says consumption saturated fats, obesity and inactivity are all decreased exercise, are putting children of all demographics at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Friedman notes Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans are being hardest hit because they are the populations with the greatest increase in obesity and the strongest genetic predisposition.

This Transforming Health report has been produced in collaboration with the York Daily Record, whose four-part series "Type 2 Diabetes: Taking Control" delves into the diabetes epidemic.

witf’s Matt Paul has more on the growing problem with Dr. D’Arcangelo.

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