Parents want to protect their kids from everything, which is virtually impossible, of course. But can you prevent your child from getting diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood. Glucose, which comes from the foods we eat, is the major source of energy needed to fuel the body's functions. To use glucose, the body needs the hormone insulin. But in people with diabetes, the body either can't make insulin or the insulin doesn't work in the body like it should.
The two major types of diabetes are:
In both types of diabetes, glucose can't get into the cells normally. This causes a rise in blood sugar levels, which can make someone sick if not treated.
Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and who won't.
No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has something to do with genes. But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. In most cases, a child has to be exposed to something else — like a virus — to get type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes isn't contagious, so kids and teens can't catch it from another person or pass it along to friends or family members. And eating too much sugar doesn't cause type 1 diabetes, either.
While type 1 diabetes can't be prevented, some research suggests that breastfeeding, avoiding early introduction of solid foods, and other factors might play a role in lowering the risk of developing the disease. There's no reliable way to predict who will get type 1 diabetes, but blood tests can detect early signs of it. These tests aren't done routinely, however, because doctors don't have any way to stop a child from developing the disease, even if the tests are positive.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can sometimes be prevented. Excessive weight gain, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle are all factors that put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In the past, type 2 diabetes almost exclusively affected adults, usually those who were overweight. Doctors even referred to type 2 diabetes as adult-onset diabetes. But now, more children and teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which experts say is related to the rapidly increasing number of overweight kids.
Although kids and teens may be able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by managing their weight and increasing physical activity, other risk factors for type 2 diabetes can't be changed. Kids with one or more family members with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing the disease. Also, certain ethnic and racial groups tend to be more prone to developing it, including those of Native American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian/Pacific Island descent.
These simple strategies can help reduce your kids' risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other associated health problems:
If you think your child may be overweight and, therefore, at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you determine what your child's weight goals should be and how to reach them.
It's important for growing kids to get enough calories and nutrients for normal growth and development, while preventing the excessive weight gain that can set the stage for type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.|
|American Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.|
|Children With Diabetes This website offers true stories about kids and teens who have diabetes.|
|Joslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.|
|Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDRF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.|
|Medicines for Diabetes For most kids with diabetes, taking medicine is an important part of staying healthy.|
|Diabetes Control: Why It's Important People who have diabetes may hear or read a lot about controlling, or managing, the condition. But what is diabetes control and why is it so important?|
|Talking to Your Child About Diabetes The more you know about diabetes, the less anxious and better prepared you'll be to talk about it with your child.|
|Diabetes: Dealing With Feelings It's perfectly normal for people with diabetes to feel sad, angry, confused, upset, alone, embarrassed, and even jealous. After all, these are natural emotions that everyone feels from time to time. But how can you cope?|
|Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It? Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. In type 1 diabetes, glucose can't get into the body's cells where it's needed.|
|Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It? Every year in the United States, 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. With some practical knowledge, you can become your child's most important ally in learning to live with the disease.|
|Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It? Thousands of kids all over the world have type 1 diabetes, a disease that affects how the body uses glucose.|
|Overweight and Obesity It's an alarming statistic: 1 out of 3 U.S. kids are considered overweight or obese. Find out how to overcome overweight and obesity in your own family.|
|Diabetes Center Does your child have type 1 or type 2 diabetes? Learn how to manage the disease and keep your child healthy.|
|Diabetes Center Our Diabetes Center provides information and advice for teens about treating and living with diabetes.|
|Can Diabetes Be Prevented? The things you do now could help prevent diabetes later, depending on the type of diabetes. Here's the scoop on diabetes prevention.|
|Can Diabetes Be Prevented? Diabetes is a health problem that affects kids of all ages, but you can't catch it like a cold. In some cases, diabetes can be prevented. Find out how.|
|Weight and Diabetes A balanced diet and an active lifestyle are important for kids with diabetes because weight can influence diabetes, and diabetes can influence weight.|
|Long-Term Complications of Diabetes Talking or thinking about the long-term complications associated with diabetes can be scary for parents and kids. But being aware of diabetes complications can help prevent them.|
|Other Diseases That Are More Common in People With Type 1 Diabetes People with type 1 diabetes have a greater risk for certain health problems, such as thyroid disorders, celiac disease, and Addison's disease. Find out more about these autoimmune disorders.|
|Other Diseases That Are More Common in People With Type 1 Diabetes Kids and teens with type 1 diabetes have a greater risk for thyroid disease, celiac disease, and Addison's disease. Learn more about these autoimmune disorders.|
|Diabetes Facts and Myths If your child has diabetes, it's important to educate yourself so you can help manage it. This means arming yourself with the right information.|
|Weight and Diabetes Weight can influence diabetes, and diabetes can influence weight. Managing weight can really make a difference in a person's diabetes management plan.|
|Weight and Diabetes Being at a healthy weight is a good idea for everyone, but it's even more important for kids with diabetes.|
|Meal Plans and Diabetes People with diabetes don't need to be on strict diets, but do need to pay attention to what they eat and when. Crack open the cookbooks and surf to your favorite recipe website because it's time to plan meals that you love!|
|My Dad Has Diabetes. Will I Get It Too? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It? Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. Find out more about a kind of diabetes called type 2 diabetes in this article for kids.|
|Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It? Teens with type 2 diabetes and have to pay close attention to what they eat and do.|
|Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It? With some practical knowledge about type 2 diabetes, you can become your child's most important ally in learning to live with the disease.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.