MADISON, Wis. — Doctors have noticed an increase in cases of Type 2 diabetes in children, which usually develops in adults. 

What You Need To Know

  • One in six patients admitted to American Family Children’s Hospital in 2022 with new-onset diabetes has Type 2
  • UW Health reports percent of new cases diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes in kids went from 5.8% in 2018 to 16.4% in 2021
  • Parents should watch for symptoms that include increased thirst and urination, also increased appetite and unintended weight loss

UW Health Kids reported new-onset diabetes in children with Type 2 went from 5.8% in 2018 to 16.4% in 2021. A trend Pediatric Endocrinologist, Dr. Elizabeth Mann calls worrisome.

“Even before the pandemic we knew that rates of Type 2 diabetes were rising in children, and for the last decade or so this has been a concern and a trend that folks have been watching,” Dr. Mann said.

She pointed out, in part, that was seen along with a rise in obesity rates in kids.

Dr. Mann noted since the beginning of the pandemic and the lockdown, those Type 2 rates have accelerated. Something she said is also happening nationally. 

UW Health Kids also reports children are being admitted to American Family Children’s Hospital at higher rates because of diabetes. In 2018, 52 pediatric patients with new-onset diabetes were admitted, only three were for Type 2 diabetes. In 2021, that number was much higher at 128 children. Twenty-one of those cases were Type 2.

Dr. Mann said there are a lot of things that could be causing that increase but believes the leading cause is a combination of genetic factors and the existence of diabetes during pregnancy. She pointed out obesity during pregnancy also plays a role.

“There seems to be something about that environment during pregnancy that’s really contributing the most to rates of pediatric Type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Mann said.

She said people often think Type 2 diabetes is the result of lifestyle. 

“The reality is for kids, it’s much more complicated than that and kind of a tendency that exists genetically but is also influenced by other things like carrying extra weight, and changes in activity and changes in diet and we can see how all of these things have been impacted during the pandemic,” Dr. Mann elaborated.

In general, she said the risk of complications from diabetes is much higher for Type 2 versus Type 1, and in kids the risk is higher than it is for adults.

Dr. Mann said it’s a good idea for parents to know the common symptoms of diabetes. Those include being really thirsty all the time, drinking a lot, and using the bathroom frequently. Also, losing weight even with a big appetite. Nausea and vomiting can indicate a more severe case. 

If you are seeing any of these symptoms in your children, reach out to your health care provider.