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Diabetes and Your Child

Understanding Prediabetes

March 2012

Prediabetes is a serious medical condition that can be treated. It's defined as the "gray area" between normal blood sugar levels and those considered diabetic. If your child has been diagnosed with prediabetes—or you're concerned that your child might be at risk for the condition—there are some steps you can take to either delay or avoid the onset of type 2 diabetes.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong (chronic) disease in which there are high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in adults, and also may occur in adolescents. It is caused by a problem in the way the body makes or uses insulin. Insulin is needed to move blood sugar (glucose) into cells, where it is stored and later used for energy.

Before children and adults develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have prediabetes. Recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body may already be occurring during prediabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Children and adults with prediabetes often don't have symptoms. Symptoms of diabetes often appear gradually. These can include unusual thirst, a frequent desire to urinate, blurred vision or a feeling of being tired most of the time for no apparent reason.

What are my child's risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

• If a parent has diabetes or had gestational diabetes or pregnancy-specific diabetes, then your child has an increased risk. More than half of all children with type 2 diabetes have a relative with the health condition.

• Children from African-American, American-Indian, Asian and Hispanic families are twice as likely to develop diabetes as those from Caucasian families.

• Becoming overweight increases the risk – you may need to talk to your pediatrician about your child's Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure and/or high cholesterol levels.

How can my child be tested?

Your doctor may order a fasting blood sugar test in which your child may not have anything to eat or drink overnight or before the blood is drawn at the doctor's office. The oral glucose tolerance test may involve your child drinking a super-sweet drink given at the doctor's office followed by a blood draw two hours later. This test will help determine how well your child's body tolerated the high amount of sugar.

What can I do?

• Help your child maintain or get to a healthy weight. Your child's doctor may suggest specific programs to help with this.

• Be a role model – at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is recommended for adults and 60 minutes for children.

• Talk to your child's doctor about risks and concerns which could lead to further testing.

For more information, visit www.rileyhospital.org.

Dr. Tamara Hannon, Director, Riley Hospital for Children Clinical Diabetes Program at Indiana University Health

Tags: In This Issue, Pediatric Health

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