A 3-year-old girl was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, making her what is thought to be one of the youngest people ever seen with the condition. Her story is documented in a case study being presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm.
Type 2 diabetes is typically seen in adults, but as the epidemic expands, the disease has been rising in children, as well.
Dr. Michael Yafi of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, who is presenting the case study, said a 3-and-a-half-year-old Hispanic girl presented to the paediatric endocrinology clinic where he is based for evaluation of obesity. The child weighed 77 pounds -- compared to an average of about 35 pounds for a girl her age.
Her symptoms included excessive urination and thirst, though her medical history showed no sign she was at an increased risk for diabetes.
Doctors reviewed the child's diet and found the family had poor nutritional habits with uncontrolled calories and fat. Both her weight and body mass index (BMI) were in the top 5 percent of all children her age.
After ruling out other potential causes for her obesity and weight gain, doctors diagnosed her with type 2 diabetes.
"The incidence of [type 2 diabetes] has increased dramatically worldwide in children due to the epidemic of child obesity," Yafi said in a statement. "Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of type 2 diabetes even in very young obese children, although of course type 1 diabetes can also still occur in obese children and is in fact much more common in young children than type 2 diabetes."
Early identification is key, especially when it comes to children, Yafi said, as early therapies can help reverse the disease.
In this particular case, the girl started a liquid version of the diabetes drug metformin and her parents received nutritional training and medical advice to help them control their daughter's food intake and increase her physical activity.
The metformin therapy was decreased by 50 percent each month, and then stopped. Six months after her diagnosis, the girl had dropped 25 percent of her body weight and had normal blood glucose levels.
"Reversal of type 2 diabetes in children is possible by early screening of obese children, early diagnosis, appropriate therapy and lifestyle modification," Yafi said.