Number of Youth with Type 2 Diabetes Expected to Jump by 2050

As more children and adolescents are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, many health professionals have refrained from calling the chronic disease “adult-onset diabetes.”

Indeed, the number of youth with type 2 diabetes in the United States is projected to jump by 49 percent over the next 40 years, according to a federal study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors of the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Diabetes Care, also say the number of adolescents with type 1 diabetes is expected to increase 23 percent. Both projections were made with current incidence rates remaining the same, according to a news release from the American Diabetes Association.

Although little is known about how to prevent type 1 diabetes, health officials said in the news release that losing weight and getting more exercise is key to helping children lower their risk for type 2 diabetes.

Not only does having diabetes increase a child’s health care costs, but is also affects their quality of life, productivity and life expectancy, the researchers wrote.

“Even in childhood, the medical expenditures of youth with diabetes are approximately 6.2 times of those without diabetes,” the authors wrote, according to the release. “The health care system and society as a whole will need to plan and prepare for the delivery of quality health care to meet the needs of the growing number of youth with diabetes. This may need to include the training of additional health care professionals to treat and manage children and adolescents with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”

In a commentary that accompanied the study, Dr. Robert E. Ratner, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, wrote that the study “highlights the dire need for better prevention strategies,” the news release states.

“If we are to avoid the catastrophic impact on our citizenry, our health care system and our economy, we must aggressively address the issue of early detection and treatment, and prevention,” Ratner wrote. “With diabetes already responsible for over 25 percent of the Medicare budget, the increase in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in youth…sends an alarm that the future of the U.S. health delivery system will be overwhelmed unless prevention of diabetes becomes our next major health care goal.”

People with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms at first. They may not have symptoms for years, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Early symptoms of diabetes may include:

  • Bladder, kidney, skin, or other infections that are more frequent or heal slowly
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

The first symptom may also be:

  • Blurry vision
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain or numbness in the feet or hands

Sources: American Diabetes Association news release; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Library of Medicine

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