Addressing the challenge of the rising number of diabetes cases in youngsters

Dr Pradeep Gadge, a Diabetologist, Gadge Diabetes Centre, shares hoe lethargic lifestyle, and lack of physical activities are taking toll of the youngsters in India

diabetes test

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition characterized by the body losing its ability to produce insulin or beginning to produce less efficient insulin.

People living with type-1 diabetes have to inject insulin regularly, as must some people with type-2 diabetes. Many people with type-2 diabetes can manage their condition with careful diet, exercise, and regular testing.

Most people think of diabetes as only a disease with high blood sugar, but it’s not true, it is also crucial to know that uncontrolled high blood sugar increases the risk of developing several serious health problems such as heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure.

Many patients even lose their foot due to uncontrolled sugar. Besides, people with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing infections. Maintaining blood sugar levels at or close to normal can help delay or prevent diabetes complications.

Dr Pradeep Gadge, diabetologist
Dr Pradeep Gadge, diabetologist

Until recently, almost all children and teenagers with diabetes had type-1, but now younger people are getting type-2 diabetes due to increasing rates of obesity, and being overweight.

Diabetes is becoming common among youth, and those who develop diabetes have a higher risk of health challenges throughout their life. In people diagnosed with type-2 diabetes at a young age, there may be more aggressive development of diabetes complications, including myocardial infarction, and microalbuminuria.

Diabetes, in teenage years, tends to be more difficult than at other points in our life. Youth-onset type-2 diabetes is no longer rare. Family history is strong, and obesity, metabolic syndrome and acanthosis nigricans (dark, velvety skin patches), are usually seen in young patients with type-2 diabetes.

Children and adolescents with diabetes usually experience common symptoms such as polyuria, polydipsia, weight loss, blurred vision, and others, but many young adults or children will have only one or two. In some cases, they will show no signs of any symptoms.

If a child suddenly becomes more thirsty or tired or urinates more than usual, their parents may not consider diabetes a possibility. Doctors, since diabetes is less common among young children, may attribute the symptoms to other, more common illnesses.

For this reason, they may not diagnose diabetes at once. It is crucial to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms of diabetes to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. If the diagnosis is late and disease management is poor, it may lead people landing up with complications in a hospital emergency.

Uncontrolled diabetes appears to progress faster in young people than in adults. Young people seem to have a higher chance of complications, such as kidney and eye disease, earlier in life than people who get diabetes at a later age.

People believe that just because young people with type-2 diabetes don’t need insulin, it is less sinister than type-1, but it’s not so. It’s not an aesthetic issue about weight or mild metabolic disease.

It needs immediate attention and treatment because complications are two to three times higher than for young people with type-1 diabetes.

More than two decades of rapid economic growth has changed the lifestyles of the Indians. People eat out more often and prefer Western-style junk food such as burgers and pizza over traditional lentil and vegetable meals.

The changes have brought a sharp rise in obesity, along with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. They are also more sedentary, using cars and public transportation instead of walking or riding bicycles, and entertaining themselves with television.

Diabetes, in children, nearly occurs with obesity, which may contribute to other higher-risk like blood pressure and high cholesterol/triglycerides levels.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends testing for children over the age of 10, who do not have  but are overweight (over 85 percentile for Body Mass Index or over 120 per cent ideal weight for height) if they have any two of the following risk factors.

Family history of type-2 diabetes

  • Signs of insulin resistance
  • If the mother had diabetes or gestational diabetes while pregnant with the child
  • High-risk ethnicity

Overweight children are at risk of developing type-2 diabetes, as they are more likely to have insulin resistance. Keeping them physically active reduces insulin resistance. Eating a balanced diet by limiting refined and fried foods helps in maintaining a healthy weight. Change in lifestyle habits remains a vital component in the management of diabetes.

Dealing with diabetes during adulthood can be challenging, but careful management, and taking early action can help you maintain health and reduce your risk of developing serious and life-threatening complications later on. So, take steps during your young adult years to improve your overall health and well-being.