News release

News Release Archive

Office of External Affairs

Mission magazine

Vital Signs

University page

More children are developing Type 2 diabetes (9/17/97)

The number of children developing Type 2 diabetes is rising, especially among Hispanic children, who are the most likely ethnic group to develop this disorder.

Daniel Hale, MD, associate professor in pediatrics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, studies the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in young children. "We have 100 documented cases of children with Type 2 diabetes," he says. "It is probable that many more children have this disease and they are not aware of it. Hispanic children are more at risk because Hispanics are genetically predisposed to developing Type 2 diabetes."

Out of the 100 reported cases of Type 2 diabetes in children in San Antonio, about three-fourths are Hispanic. The remaining include five non- Hispanic Caucasian and 19 Afro-American children. In the Rio Grande Valley, Ruth Ann Plotkin, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, has also seen numerous children with Type 2 diabetes. All are Hispanic.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to store sugar, starches and other food in tissues so that they are available when needed for energy production.

Type 1 diabetes patients are insulin deficient. An autoimmune process has caused their bodies to stop making insulin. This usually occurs in children and young adults. Affected individuals require insulin injections every day in order to survive.

Type 2 diabetes patients may take oral medications, insulin or control their high blood sugar level by means of diet.

Symptoms for either type include: frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue, blurred vision, tingling/numbness in the hands or feet and recurring skin, gum, bladder or vaginal infection.

Girls are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than boys. "Perhaps this is because girls are not encouraged to be active," Dr. Hale says. "Because they are less active, they are more apt to be overweight than boys. This can unmask the Type 2 diabetes." He added that a child's environment can contribute to the development of the disease.

"A child's living conditions play a huge factor because if a child mainly eats high-fat foods and does not exercise, chances are the child will become overweight, which is one of the main associations with Type 2 diabetes," Dr. Hale says. Dr. Hale came to the Health Science Center =66rom Philadelphia where he says as an endocrinologist, he saw no cases of Type 2 diabetes in young children and only a few in adolescents.

Treatment for Type 2 diabetes in children centers around diet and exercise. "Often, if the child loses the weight, the symptoms of the diabetes will go away. However, this is extremely difficult in children," Dr. Hale says. "It requires a behavior change, but this is hard for a 12-year-old without parental, school and community involvement. The traditional medical model, when a child is seen every three months, makes it difficult to adequately reinforce the changes which are needed," Dr. Hale says.

Contact: Myong Covert (210) 567-2570