Childhood Diabetes Ups Kidney Risk
Kidney Disease, Early Death Seen More Often in Those Diagnosed Before 20
July 25, 2006 -- Children and teens who develop type 2 diabetes may face a
higher risk of life-threatening kidney disease and early death
than people diagnosed as adults.
Those are the findings from a study of a very high-risk Native American
population, published in the July 26 issue of The Journal of the American
The researchers found that adults with diabetes who were diagnosed before
age 20 (early onset) were nearly five times as likely to develop end-stage
kidney disease as those diagnosed in their 20s and beyond.
The early-onset group was also twice as likely to die of health-related
causes in early adulthood or middle age as diabetes patients with adult-onset
disease; they were three times as likely to die of such causes as those without
diabetes from the same population.
Study researcher Robert G. Nelson, MD, tells WebMD there has been a sixfold
increase in diabetes rates among children and young teens living in the
southwestern Native American community in the past four decades.
During this period, the population has had one of the highest obesity rates in the
nation. As a result, it was among the first communities in the U.S. to see
large numbers of type 2 diabetes cases in children and teens.
This study is one of the first to examine the long-term outcomes among
people who develop type 2 diabetes before reaching adulthood.
"This is a growing problem around the world," Nelson says. "I
have seen 25-year-olds with diabetes on dialysis machines in the Western
Pacific. We used to call [type 2 diabetes] adult-onset diabetes, but we don't
anymore, for obvious reasons."
Numbers Aren't Known
It is not clear how many children and teens in the U.S. have type 2
diabetes. But pediatric endocrinologist Larry Deeb, MD, says it is obvious the
numbers are skyrocketing.
A recently published national study found that the number of type 2 diabetes
drug prescriptions written for children doubled between 2002 and 2005.
Another recent study predicts nearly half of all children in North and South
America will be overweight by 2010, a jump from about a third today. As obesity
increases, so will type 2 diabetes, Deeb says.
"I would certainly call childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes in
children an epidemic," he tells WebMD.
Early-onset type 2 diabetes led to "substantially increased complication
rates and mortality in middle age," Nelson and colleagues write in their
"Anyone who thinks early diabetes is no big deal or that young age is
protective against the ravages of this disease needs to get over it," says
Deeb, who is president-elect for medicine and science of the American Diabetes