Diabetes problems aren’t just old news

From San Francisco, Calif., at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association

Type II diabetes, once considered a disease of middle-aged and older adults, is increasingly striking obese children. Canadian researchers report that these younger victims are at risk of serious and life-threatening complications in their early 20s.

In a database of patients from a diabetes clinic, the scientists identified 51 Native American children who had been diagnosed with type II diabetes before age 17 as early as the mid-1980s. Through interviews and medical records, the researchers found that this group, mostly women, had suffered a litany of troubles. Two had died of heart attacks while undergoing dialysis to treat kidney failure, and five had died of causes unrelated to diabetes. Among the 44 volunteers still living, now 18 to 33 years old, three were on dialysis. Of those three, one was blind and another had had a toe amputated. Of 56 pregnancies among the women in the study, only 35 resulted in live births, a miscarriage rate two to three times higher than normal.

“In the 15 years since we first saw these children, a lot has changed,” says Heather Dean of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. “My sense is that the future is more optimistic, but it’s clear this is a very aggressive disease.”

Treatment poses challenges, too. Kids have a tough time sticking to a regular medication schedule, says Silva Arslanian of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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