Type 2 diabetes in children


When a child has type 2 diabetes, their body’s cells do not respond to insulin, causing glucose to accumulate in their bloodstream. The term for this is insulin resistance.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas, which helps the glucose get into the cells and used as an energy of the body. If high blood glucose level is left untreated, it could lead to serious complications.

Adults are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, in which it was previously called adult-onset diabetes. However, higher incidences of type 2 diabetes in children have been reported as a result of the rise in the number of children who are obese.

Type 2 diabetes in children could be prevented or managed. Encouraging the children to consume healthy foods, maintaining a good weight, and physical activities such as sports or exercises.


Type 2 diabetes in children usually do not cause any signs and symptoms, or they gradually develop that may not be noticeable, until they have a regular checkup with a healthcare provider.

When signs and symptoms occur, it may include the following:

  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss
  • Bladder infections
  • Darkened skin around the armpits and groin or around the neck.
  • Wounds that slowly heal or does not heal
  • Irritability or mood swings

When the child shows any signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes, then it is recommended that they have a checkup with a healthcare provider.

If the children do not show any signs and symptoms, it is still recommended that the children have a regular checkup with the healthcare provider especially after puberty, or individuals who have at least 10 years of age, are fat or overweight, and have at least one significant type 2 diabetes risk factor.


Although the exact cause of type 2 diabetes in children is unknown, environmental factors and genetics are most likely contributed. Many children who have the condition could had it from a family member who also carries it.

The majority of sugar in the body is derived from food, as food is digested, sugar is absorbed into the blood. Insulin reduces blood sugar levels while allowing sugar to enter cells. When the child develops type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels increase because insulin does not properly convert glucose into cellular fuel. This may occur as a result of insufficient insulin production by the pancreas or insulin resistance in the cells, which limit the amount of sugar that can be taken in.

Risk factors

The following factors could increase the risk of children to develop type 2 diabetes.

  • Weight: A significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes in children is being overweight or obese. Children’s bodies become increasingly insulin resistant if they have more fatty tissue, especially inside and between the muscle and skin surrounding the abdomen.
  • Inactivity: Children who are less active have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Family history: Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes raises the risk.
  • Age and sex: Although it can happen at any age, type 2 diabetes is common in young teenagers and children. Adolescent boys are less likely than adolescent girls to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Diet: A higher risk of type 2 diabetes is linked in consuming red meat, processed meat, and beverages with added sugar.
  • Race or ethnicity: Some people, particularly those who are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian Americans, are more prone to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is more likely to occur in children born to mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Low birth weight or preterm birth: A increased risk of having type 2 diabetes is linked to low birth weight. Babies that are born before 39 to 42 weeks of gestation are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Other conditions:
    • Metabolic syndrome: Certain disorders that follow obesity are linked to insulin resistance, which can raise the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
      Metabolic syndrome is a combination of the following components:

      • High blood pressure
      • Increase blood sugar
      • High triglycerides
      • Low in high-density lipoproteins (HDL)
      • Increase in waist size
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome: Weight gain, irregular menstruation cycles, and an abundance of facial and body hair are symptoms of PCOS, which is brought on by a hormonal imbalance. Metabolic issues are common in people with PCOS and can lead to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and other health issues.