Does diabetes affect children differently than adults?

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

There is a huge growth in cases of type 2 diabetes among children, and it has a much more wicked flavor than it has in adults. It is a much more aggressive disease in children, leading to earlier complications. Some experts believe that many children who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will pre-decease their parents. This is why one of the greatest health threats facing the nation is the obesity epidemic in children.

Let me be clear, simply being overweight (even grossly so) does not cause diabetes, but in those genetically pre-disposed to diabetes it can trigger the disease early; and early type 2 diabetes tears though the body like a hurricane.

Adults and children typically develop different types of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs much more frequently in adults than children, accounting for 25 percent of the population in adults 60 years and older (although the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in children and young adults is rising rapidly), while Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children and adolescents.

Children and adults experience similar signs and symptoms of diabetes, but children and teens may have a harder time accepting diabetes emotionally. Teens may forgo their treatment in the interest of fitting in with their peers. They may turn to alcohol and substance abuse, which makes it all the more difficult to manage their blood sugar levels. Children and adolescents can benefit from support groups and counselors so that they feel less isolated.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.