A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that three of the most widely-used drug regimens for treating Type 2 diabetes in children are largely ineffective, with half of patients unable to control their blood sugar while using the medications. The disease progresses more rapidly in children than in adults, and is much more difficult to control.
Type 2 diabetes more common, harder to treat
The new research emphasizes the severity of Type 2 diabetes in children, and “researchers said the findings suggested a majority of youth with the disease may require more than one oral medication–or resort to insulin injections–within a few years of diagnosis” (Wall Street Journal).
The occurrence of diabetes in children has risen sharply over the past 15 to 20 years and is directly related to the rise of obesity and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle for many Americans. The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine is the first large-scale study on Type 2 diabetes in children, because the disease used to be practically nonexistent for that age group. And the findings are grim.
“It’s frightening how serious this disease is.”
“It’s frightening how serious this metabolic disease is in children,” said Dr. David M. Nathan, one of the authors of the study (New York Times). “Frightening” is definitely the right word for a condition that is becoming more and more common, and is so difficult to treat. Researchers are unsure why the same drugs that are often effective for diabetic adults don’t have the same positive results in children and teenagers. Some hypothesize that rapid growth and the hormones that appear during puberty may interfere with the medication.
Additional complications that arise with diabetes include heart disease, high blood pressure and amputations. The risk for these complications rise the longer a person has the disease, so those who develop diabetes in childhood may face a future of poor health and reduced mobility.
The best treatment for Type 2 diabetes is prevention. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are must-haves for children and teenagers, especially those with a family history of diabetes. At-risk families need to understand the risks of the disease and how they can prevent their children from developing it, because — as this study has shown — the treatment currently available is simply not good enough.
Photo credit: EvelynGiggles