Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(5):665-666

See related article on type 2 diabetes in youth.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is when your body cannot control the amount of sugar in your blood (blood sugar). Usually, a hormone called insulin helps turn the sugar from food into energy for your body. If you have diabetes, your body doesn't make enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or doesn't use it right (type 2 diabetes).

Diabetes can cause problems with your heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and feet.

Adults usually get type 2 diabetes, but more and more children and teenagers are getting the disease. This could be because more children are overweight.

How do I know if my child is at risk of getting type 2 diabetes?

Children are more likely to get the disease if they are overweight or have a family member who has type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Children of certain races are more likely to get the disease (for example, American Indians, blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific islanders).

How can I prevent my child from getting type 2 diabetes?

Exercise and eating right can help your child stay a healthy weight and lower the chances of getting the disease.

Your child should exercise at least one hour almost every day. For example, your child could walk, ride a bike, dance, or play sports. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, and low-fat yogurt are healthy food choices. Your child should drink water or low-fat milk instead of soda and fruit drinks.

If your child is overweight, ask your doctor about ways your child could lose weight.

How is type 2 diabetes managed?

Diabetes can be managed with diet, exercise, and medicine. Your child might need to use a glucose meter to check blood sugar levels during the day. Your doctor may check your child's blood pressure and cholesterol levels to make sure they stay normal. Your doctor can also tell you the best way to manage your child's diabetes.

What can I expect?

Diabetes can be stressful for children and their families. Parents should watch for signs of depression or eating disorders in their child. Parents should talk to their child about not using tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

Your child should know how to manage his or her diabetes at school. A teacher or school nurse can help.

Diabetes camps are a fun way for children to meet other children with diabetes and to learn about the disease.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Diabetes Association

  • Web site:

    Telephone: 1-800-342-2383

National Diabetes Education Program

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