The Physiology of Type 2 Diabetes
Like Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 begins with a genetic precursor. In almost all cases, there is a family history. But unlike Type 1, the environmental triggers of Type 2 diabetes are not only clear but possibly avoidable in children as well as in some adults.
When Insulin Doesn't Work
In Type 2 diabetes, the body still produces insulin, but the body's cells have trouble using it properly. Researchers are still studying why this occurs. Do the cells have a hard time recognizing the insulin? Do the cells need more insulin than a normal body for special reasons? Whatever the case, as Type 2 develops, the body begins to be unable to make the connection with the insulin available. The pancreas struggles, putting out more and more insulin. Eventually, the pancreas reaches a limit of how much insulin it can produce while the body still is unable to recognize the insulin available.
The term insulin resistance refers to the early stages of Type 2 diabetes, when the body is making plenty of insulin, but the cells are unable to use that insulin productively.
While children experiencing the onset of Type 1 diabetes often have rapid weight loss, children experiencing the onset of Type 2 diabetes usually have a weight problem, even obesity. Although when a child is experiencing constant high blood sugar from Type 2, he can lose weight as well, but it would follow a period of obesity.
How Can It Happen in Children?
Although Type 2 was thought to occur only in older bodies, some doctors are reporting more occurrences in children, particularly obese and sedentary children. While the media has made this an issue, according to the Centers for Disease Control, “a statistically significant increase in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents was found only for American Indians.”
There are other claims of an increase in Latino and African American communities as well. Studies are looking at both the genetic and lifestyle issues in these ethnic groups.
In any case, more and more pediatricians are now on the lookout for Type 2 diabetes in children. Markers include a family history, a child whose body mass index is over the 85th percentile, or a child who is over the 120th percentile in weight for her age. Children who fall into these categories are now being watched carefully and being counseled about how to avoid the disease.