What is diabetes type 2 in children and teens?

Type 2 Diabetes in Children: What Is It?

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children?

Most children with type 2 diabetes don't have symptoms when the disease is first found. If a child has symptoms, they usually are mild. They may include having to urinate more often, feeling a little more thirsty than normal, and losing a little weight for no clear reason.

How is type 2 diabetes in children treated?

Treatment of type 2 diabetes in children focuses on keeping blood sugar levels within a target range. Treatment includes:

Healthy eating.

Children who have diabetes need healthy meals that provide the right amount of calories and carbohydrates.

Physical activity.

Being active helps the body use insulin correctly and helps control weight. Children need at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day.

Weight management.

A child who is overweight may need to lose weight (or stay at the same weight). This depends on age, development, and other risk factors.

Home blood sugar monitoring.

Your child's blood sugar level may need to be checked regularly.


Your child may take medicine to lower blood sugar. Some children need daily insulin. Some may also need medicine for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Can type 2 diabetes in children be prevented?

Helping your child stay at a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, and get regular exercise can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Some children may need to lose weight if they are overweight and have reached adult height. In some severe cases, weight loss may be needed before a child reaches full adult height.

Prediabetes increases a child's risk for type 2 diabetes. If your child has prediabetes, eating a healthy diet and getting more exercise may return your child’s blood sugar to a normal range, and it might prevent type 2 diabetes. Your child will still need to see a doctor regularly to check for signs of diabetes.

How is type 2 diabetes in children diagnosed?

A simple blood test is usually all that is needed to diagnose diabetes. A doctor may do this test if your child has risk factors for diabetes, such as being overweight. Some children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when they have a blood or urine test for some other reason.

How is medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes in children?

Medicines that may be prescribed for children with type 2 diabetes are:


This is the medicine of choice for children with type 2 diabetes. It is taken as a pill.


Your doctor may suggest insulin if metformin doesn't keep your child's blood sugar in the target range. Insulin can be taken as a shot (injection) or through an insulin pump.

  • Some children need daily insulin. Even if your doctor doesn't prescribe daily insulin, your child may need to take it for a while when first diagnosed or during illness or surgery.
  • Insulin may be given as a single nighttime dose, as several smaller doses throughout the day, or both.

Type 2 diabetes in children: Taking precautions to avoid emergencies

There are things you can do at home to help your child who has type 2 diabetes stay well and avoid the need for emergency treatment.

  • Learn how to recognize and treat high and low blood sugar.

    Even when you are careful and do all the right things, your child can have problems with high or low blood sugar. It's important to know what signs to look for and what to do if this happens.

  • Have your child wear medical identification at all times.

    In an emergency, a medical alert bracelet, necklace, or a temporary tattoo lets people know that your child has diabetes so they can provide the right care.

  • Know what to do if your child is ill.

    Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to make a sick-day plan for your child. Discuss your child's target blood sugar goal during an illness. Know how to adjust the insulin dose and timing (if your child takes insulin) and when to contact your doctor for help.

  • Work with your child's school and caregivers.

    Make a plan to handle your child's special needs, such as knowing the symptoms of high or low blood sugar and how to treat them..

  • Take care of your child's feet.

    Diabetes can interfere with the body's ability to fight infection. So even a minor foot injury could lead to a serious infection.

    • Be sure your child wears shoes that fit properly.
    • Don't let your child go barefoot outdoors if there is a risk of getting a cut or any foot injury.
    • Check your child's feet on a routine basis and anytime your child has a foot complaint. Look for signs of injury or infection. If you notice a foot problem, even a minor one, talk with your doctor before you treat it.
  • Get support.

    Some children and teens may have trouble keeping their blood sugar in a healthy range. Support groups can share encouragement and suggestions that may help you and your child deal with the daily issues of diabetes care. Ask your doctor about groups in your area.

What puts a child at risk for type 2 diabetes?

Experts don't know exactly what causes type 2 diabetes. But they do know some things that increase a child's risk. The main ones are:

  • Being overweight.
  • Getting little or no exercise.
  • Having a parent, sister, or brother who has diabetes.

A child's risk is also higher if the child:

  • Is African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
  • Was born to a mother who had gestational diabetes.
  • Was small for their gestational age at birth.

What is type 2 diabetes in children?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which a person has too much sugar (glucose) in their blood. Experts believe the disease develops in children the same way it does in adults. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body's cells use sugar for energy. Without insulin, the sugar can't get into the cells to do its work. It stays in the blood instead. This can cause high blood sugar levels.

Over time, high blood sugar can damage a child's eyes, heart, blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys. High blood sugar also makes a child more likely to get serious illnesses or infections.

In the past, doctors believed that type 2 diabetes was an adult disease and that type 1 diabetes was a children's disease. Now, more and more children are getting type 2 diabetes.

What problems can type 2 diabetes cause in children?

Over time, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious problems such as:

  • Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy).
  • Diabetic kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol. These diseases increase the risk of heart and blood vessel disease later in life.

The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely these problems are. Children who have type 2 diabetes may have a higher risk of problems because they will have diabetes for a long time. Keeping their blood sugar in the target range every day may help to delay or prevent some of these problems.

Diabetes can also cause growth and development problems.

  • If blood sugar levels stay high for a long time, a child may grow faster than normal for a while, then slower than normal.
  • If a child is overweight and has high blood sugar levels for a long time, puberty and menstruation may start earlier. And periods may be irregular.

Type 2 diabetes in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your child's blood sugar is very high or very low.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's blood sugar stays outside the level your doctor set.
  • Your child has any problems.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.