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Diabetes Among Youth Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Diabetes Among Youth: Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Did you know excess of sugar consumption does not cause diabetes? The increase in consumption actually leads to obesity which is a risk factor of diabetes. In fact, diabetes was considered an adult-only condition until recently where studies revealed the condition becoming more popular amongst the youth.

For International Youth Day, let’s find out more about this health condition amongst the youth – causes, symptoms, and diagnosis – both about Type-1 and Type-2!

All About Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition amongst the youth that affects the body’s ability to process sugar or glucose. Without medication and effective diabetes management, the condition can lead to a build-up of sugar in the blood, thus leading to long-term health complications. Though Type 2 diabetes has been common in adults, the condition has fueled amongst kids as well.

Causes of type 2 diabetes in Children

  • There is no exact cause of type 2 diabetes. However, genetics play a crucial role along with obesity and inactivity
  • The one factor clear about Type-2 diabetes is the body’s inability to process glucose resulting in difficulty of doing a normal job of producing energy for cells and muscles
  • The sugar is produced from the food consumed. In order to convert the sugar into energy, the body requires a hormone called insulin
  • Insulin is produced by a gland called pancreas that is located behind the stomach. As soon as the food enters the stomach, pancreas release insulin to breakdown the food
  • As insulin circulates, it allows sugar to enter the cells and therefore decreases the blood sugar level
  • Type 2 diabetes is a condition developed when the body resists to produce enough insulin that leads to an increase in the blood sugar level

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children

The symptoms of Type-2 diabetes are not easily identifiable and in fact many people don’t even realise developing any symptoms. However, here are the common signs to lookout for:

  • Excessive fatigue

In case the child feels inexplicably tired/sleepy, the high sugar levels are affecting the energy levels

  • Frequent urination

Another common sign to lookout is excessive need to urinate. This happens when the blood sugar levels lead to the extra sugar going into the urine

  • Excessive thirst

When the child experiences frequent urination, the need for water or anything to quench the thirst might look normal, but it’s not.

  • Increased hunger

Since the body is unable to produce energy, it might lead to increased hunger

  • Darkened skin

Insulin resistance can cause skin to darken, most commonly in the armpits and neck. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans

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Risk factors

While it is not proven the reasons why diabetes develops in the youth, here are a few risk factors that can help:

  • Weight: One of the major factors for diabetes is being overweight. The higher the fatty tissues, the more resistance from the body to produce insulin and reduce blood sugar levels
  • Inactivity: Less activity or body inactivity can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is why physical activity is necessary as it helps your child manage his/her weight
  • Family history: The risk increases when either of the parent or sibling has diabetes or if the condition runs in the family history
  • Age and sex: While the research is ongoing, it is noticed the probability of developing type 2 diabetes in their early teens is higher. Moreover, various studies have indicated adolescent girls to more likely develop type 2 diabetes than boys.
  • Birth weight and gestational diabetes: While this might sound astonishing, one’s birth weight and whether the mother developed gestational diabetes during the pregnancy also can be a factor for the child to develop the condition


Now that we have discussed the risk factors, it is difficult to ignore the fact that diabetes is a progressive condition and affects the organs in the course of time. Here are a few complications that may develop if the sugar levels are not controlled in time:

  • Kidney disease
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Blindness
  • Amputation


One of the best and effective ways to prevent and manage diabetes is to opt healthy lifestyle choices. A child with type 2 diabetes can reduce his/her dependency by making small lifestyle changes . Other things to encourage your child are to:

  • Eat healthy foods: It is better to opt foods that are low in fat. Consume more of natural sugar such as in fruits and increase your consumption of vegetables and whole grains. Strike a perfect balance to avoid boredom
  • Get more physical activity: As mentioned above, physical activity is as important as a healthy diet. In fact, one can encourage their child by involving all family members to make it a merrier time

All About Managing Type 1 Diabetes

Also called an auto-immune condition, Type 1 diabetes in children is where your body is not able to produce insulin. In order to survive, the child is given external insulin in the form of injections or insulin pump. The condition in children is also termed as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. From diagnosis to diabetes management, the journey of a Type-1 child diabetic can be overwhelming due to the regime of insulin pump and sugar monitoring along with keeping a check on what he/she eats. While there is no cure for type 1 diabetes in children, it can be surely managed.

Causes of Type-1 Diabetes in Children

  • Just like Type-2 diabetes, the reasons for developing type 1 diabetes is unknown. However, in many cases, the immune system of the body mistakenly destroys the islet cells that are known to produce insulin. Studies indicate the role of genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role in this process
  • When the cells are destroyed, the body is left with little or no insulin thus limiting the function of the hormone. Insulin plays a critical role in providing sugar to the cells as energy
  • However, without enough or no insulin, sugar starts building up in the bloodstream thus leading to untreated health complications


Unlike Type 2 diabetes, the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children  are developed quickly, some of them being as follows:

  • Frequent urination, possibly bed-wetting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or behavior changes
  • Fruity-smelling breath or weird breath

Risk factors

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes in children include:

  • Family history: Type 1 diabetes is commonly seen in children whose parents or siblings are diagnosed with the same condition
  • Genetics: In fact, it is surprising to see certain genes indicating an increase in risk of developing type 1 diabetes
  • Certain viruses: It is reported that exposure to various viruses can trigger the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells


Development of Type 1 diabetes can cause major complications to the organs of the body. Therefore, it is important to keep taking precautions to keep the blood sugar within or around the normal range. The various complications that arise due to diabetes include:

  • Eye damage
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Kidney damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nerve damage


Since it is a condition developed in the body not due to external factors, there is not much one can do about it. However, here are a few ways that can help in preventing the complications that may arise during managing Type 1 diabetes:

  • Encourage your child to manage sugar levels and keeping it in or around the normal range
  • Educate the child about the good and bad results of consuming different types of foods.. In fact, make him understand what a healthy balanced diet and physical activity can do to his/her sugar levels
  • Schedule frequent appointments with your diabetes educator or doctor for him to discuss the progress

Diabetes is an overwhelming condition for kids and adults alike. Hence, the need to accept the condition and make it part of the journey might look difficult but necessary. It is always important to talk to your child and diabetes educator to make the process easier for them. In fact, this International Youth Day, also known as International Yuva Day, let us all pledge to help and support people around us with the condition.

Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this article is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

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