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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are about 4 million people with Type 1 diabetes and 30 million people with Type 2 diabetes in the United States (roughly 9.3% of the population). In North Carolina alone, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death.
Below, we examine some of the common questions related to the prevalence of diabetes as it relates to children.
At what age do you typically see children develop diabetes?
In children, the majority of diabetes cases we see involve Type 1 diabetes. Roughly 45 percent of Type 1 diabetes cases in children occur before the age of ten. Type 1 diabetes, however, can occur in adults – even as late as 50-60 years of age.
The two most common ages for children to develop Type 1 diabetes are:
For children with Type 2 diabetes, almost all cases in overweight or obese children occur after 10 years of age, and in children who have already gone through puberty.
Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are becoming more common among children. Recent studies indicate that both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children increased 20 – 30 percent between 2001 – 2009.
Because we do not fully understand what causes diabetes (especially Type 1 diabetes), we do not know why it is becoming more common. For Type 2 diabetes, the increasing number of overweight and obese children is a major contributing factor to this increased frequency.
Only your pediatrician can diagnose your child as diabetic. However, there are classic signs of diabetes that occur when the body is not making enough insulin. These symptoms include:
If it is not detected early, undiagnosed diabetes may present in the following symptoms as well:
If your child develops any of these symptoms, he/she should be immediately evaluated by a pediatrician. Because most children have Type 1 diabetes, they will develop the symptoms listed above (which are associated with a lack of insulin). Because most adults have Type 2 diabetes, they often do not have any symptoms initially.
The only known risk factor for Type 1 diabetes is having a family member (especially a sibling or parent) with Type 1 diabetes.
Because most children have Type 1 diabetes, in which the body no longer makes insulin, the only treatment is insulin. Insulin gets broken down by stomach acids, so it has to be given into the fatty layer of the skin through small, daily injections or an insulin pump.
Type 1 diabetes CANNOT be prevented at this time. We know that some individuals are at greater risk of developing diabetes (ex: those with a sibling or parent with Type 1 diabetes). However, we still do not understand why some children ultimately develop Type 1 diabetes and others do not.
At this time, we are unable to stop the immune system from attacking the pancreas, which is what causes the body to stop making insulin over time. Therefore, children cannot “grow out of” Type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Lockemer is a pediatric endocrinologist with WakeMed Physician Practices – Pediatric Endocrinology. She is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric endocrinology and has been involved in numerous research studies related to pediatric endocrinology.
About Bill Lagarde, MD
Dr. Lagarde serves as director of WakeMed Physician Practices – Pediatric Endocrinology. He is board certified in both General Pediatrics and Pediatric Endocrinology.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610