Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that’s becoming more and more common due to the increased prevalence of childhood obesity. Learn more about it in this article.
Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Last update: 23 January, 2020

Type 2 diabetes in children is a relatively recent disease because, traditionally, it was exclusively associated with adults. There are increasing cases of childhood obesity worldwide. As a consequence, this disease is becoming increasingly common among children and adolescents.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease characterized by causing hyperglycemia (excess blood sugar levels) and carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolic disorders.

This condition can have several causes: defective insulin secretion by the pancreas, a defect in its action, or both. In the case of this disease, the cause is often a combination of insulin resistance (usually due to obesity) and, also, inadequate pancreatic secretory response.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease with a major impact on quality of life. In addition, experts consider it to be a worldwide health problem. It can cause long-term injuries in different organs and systems: eyes, kidneys, nerves, blood vessels, and heart.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes in children

The main risk factors for developing this condition are:

  • Obesity.
  • Hypertension.
  • Dyslipidemia.
  • Fatty liver.
  • Metabolic syndrome.
  • Family history of type 2 diabetes.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
Type 2 Diabetes in Children

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children

In many cases, children with type 2 diabetes have the same symptoms as adults:

  • First of all, polyuria. Excessive urine production throughout the day.
  • Secondly, polydipsia. An exaggerated and urgent need to drink water.
  • Thirdly, polyphagia. Increased and uncontrollable hunger.
  • In addition, fatigue.
  • Finally, acanthosis nigricans. It’s the darkening and thickening of the skin in different parts of the body, especially in the folds: neck, knees, and underarms…

How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

Currently, there’s no screening program for this condition in children or adolescents. Thus, medical professionals assess it when there are symptoms that are suggestive of the disease.

If a child is obese or has any of the above symptoms, they need to take the necessary tests to find the cause. In the case of diabetes, one of the initial tests are blood tests, which will analyze blood sugar levels (glucose).

Also, it may be necessary to request additional analytical data, such as autoimmune blood markers, or certain nutritional tests or insulin tests.

It’s imperative that the medical professional do a complete medical history for the diagnosis, including the possible emotional or eating disorders they may have, as well as assess the child’s family support. They have to take into account the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (especially in adolescents).

The key points to check for are:

  • First of all, weight.
  • Secondly, body mass index (BMI).
  • Thirdly, blood pressure.
  • Also, skin changes.
  • Finally, dilated fundus examination (to check for any injury).

Available treatment

The treatment of this condition in children is different than the treatment for adults. Influential factors that should be taken into account include the metabolic variability characteristic of puberty, increased physical activity in a disorderly manner, and the limitations when it comes to prescribing drugs approved to treat children, among others.

Physical activity

It’s very important that children, especially those who are obese or have type 2 diabetes, exercise regularly, adapting the exercise to their age and physical condition.

Exercise not only helps maintain proper weight and fitness but also helps improve insulin sensitivity.

Type 2 Diabetes in Children


Diet is one of the foundations of type 2 diabetes treatment. The nutritional requirements of children with type 2 diabetes are similar to those of healthy children. Therefore, it’s important to limit foods with a high glycemic index and eat small meals several times a day to avoid big changes in blood glucose levels.

In pediatric patients, one of the initial goals consists of weight maintenance to prevent linear growth alterations.

Drug treatments

It may be necessary to administer certain drugs to children who suffer from this condition. In this sense, they may be insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents that are approved for use in children.

What can I do?

Ultimately, if your child has any of these symptoms or is obese, take them to the pediatrician so they can comprehensively evaluate their case. Remember that good habits are the foundations for a healthy life. So consequently, you should put them into practice.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Baron, P. F., & Márquez, E. (2010). Diabetes mellitus tipo 2 en niños y adolescentes. Medicina Interna de Mexico.
  • Barrio R., Ros P. (2013). Diabetes tipo 2 en población pediátrica española: cifras, pronóstico y posibilidades terapéuticas. Av Diabetol. 29 (2): 27-35.
  • Manrique-Hurtado, H., Aro-Guardia, P., & Pinto-Valdivia, M. (2016). Diabetes tipo 2 en niños. Serie de casos. Revista Medica Herediana. https://doi.org/10.20453/rmh.2015.2341

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.