Diabetes in Teenagers
We often think of type 2 diabetes as an illness that develops later in life, but it is affecting more and more young people. A recent study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that nearly one in four American teenagers may already be developing diabetes. This is a sharp increase in diabetes among adolescents, ages 12-19, especially among teen girls.
In fact, it's nearly triple the percentage of teenagers who tested positive for diabetes or prediabetes just ten years ago, when it was estimated that only 1 in 10 were at risk.
Due to the increasing use of computers and mobile devices, teens have become less active over the last decade. With this rise in sedentary lifestyles, obesity and type 2 diabetes among teens has risen.
If this sounds like your teen, you may be concerned about the warning signs and what you can do to prevent or manage diabetes in his or her life. First, determine if he or she is at risk.
What are the warning signs?
- Excessive thirst and frequent urination
- Extreme hunger and weight loss
- Numb hands or feet and dry, itchy skin
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of cuts and bruises
- Irritability, fatigue and depression
Tips to Help Your Teen
Diabetes is preventable. If your teenager is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes or has prediabetes, there are steps he or she can take to improve his or her health. Encourage the following choices:
- Make healthy food a habit. Everyone knows it's important to eat a nutritious diet of fruits, vegetables and low-fat foods, but it's even more important for growing teens.
- Get him/her involved in a sport or regular physical activity. Being active allows teens to relax, maintain weight, sleep better and have more energy.
- Monitor your teenager's weight. If your son or daughter is overweight, it can make diabetes management more difficult. The same is true if he or she is underweight. Maintaining a healthy weight is key.
- Help your teen to eat the right amounts of foods. It's important to not eat too much and just as important to not avoid meals.
- Encourage him/her to take medicine and check blood glucose. If your son or daughter already has diabetes, this is vital to managing the condition. Speak with your family doctor about what blood glucose level is right.
- Talk to your teen about stress management. Since teenagers deal with a lot of changes—physical and hormonal, blood glucose levels may go up and down a lot more.
Sources: NPR, American Diabetes Association, Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics
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