Children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes face a high likelihood of developing complications before age 30, a new study suggests. Black kids and Hispanic kids were 80 percent and 57 percent more likely, respectively, to develop complications than white kids were, according to the findings.
Researchers found that among 500 children and teenagers with type 2 diabetes, 60 percent developed at least one complication over the next 15 years — including nerve damage, eye disease and kidney disease.
Type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with older age and obesity, was once seen almost exclusively in adults. But as childhood obesity has climbed in recent decades, more kids are being diagnosed with the condition.
Type 2 diabetes arises when the body can no longer properly use the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. As a result, those sugar levels can soar, and that can damage blood vessels and various organs over time.
The new findings — published in the New England Journal of Medicine — show just how rapidly complications can arise.
By the end of the study period, participants were 26 years old, on average. Yet 55 percent had kidney disease, one-third had nerve damage, and half had eye disease related to blood vessel damage.
“To some extent, this confirms what we’d suspected, but didn’t know,” Dr. Philip Zeitler, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, in Aurora and one of the researchers on the study says.
“There remains a question of whether kids develop complications any faster than adults do. But it doesn’t happen more slowly,” Zeitler adds.