By 2050, the rates of U.S. children with diabetes could skyrocket, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the December issue of Diabetes Care.
If current trends continue, the rates of type 2 diabetes will increase by 49 percent to 203,000 children, while rates of type 1 diabetes will rise 23 percent to 30,000 kids. However, if the incidence rate increases, the type 2 diabetes rates could quadruple, while type 1 rates could triple.
And U.S. adults aren't faring much better. Since 1995, the number of diabetes cases among all age groups increased by at least 50 percent in 42 states, and 100 percent in 18 states, according to the CDC's Nov. 16 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Children with Diabetes
Children are most often diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which is not tied to obesity. Its cause is relatively unknown. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin, which is necessary for the body to turn sugar into energy. In type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and used to be rare in children, the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or the body does not use insulin efficiently.
Today, doctors are diagnosing more kids with type 2 diabetes, as childhood obesity continues to rise.
“Diabetes is clearly increasing at an unacceptable rate, and while we are doing a whole lot better in terms of treating it, we simply can’t keep up,” Dr. Robert E. Ratner, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association wrote in a related commentary in Diabetes Care. “The simple fact is we are losing the battle by not preventing this disease.”
Diabetes: A Public Health Concern
According to the CDC, 18.8 million Americans had diabetes in 2010, and 7 million had undiagnosed diabetes. More than 90 percent of patients have type 2 diabetes. The largest increases from 1995 were seen in Oklahoma (226 percent), Kentucky (158 percent) and Georgia (145 percent), according to the CDC report.
"These rates will continue to increase until effective interventions and policies are implemented to prevent both diabetes and obesity," Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, said in a statement.
The ADA is working toward this goal. For Diabetes Awareness Month, which is winding down, the group focused on making people aware of the increasing impact that diabetes is having on families and communities nationwide.
The group is collecting pictures to show what life with diabetes is like. This year's theme is "A day in the life of diabetes" and utilizes Facebook as a way to connect people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Continued Need for Improvements
The CDC study notes that diabetes treatments have improved. Scientists continue to work on new oral medications to help control blood sugar. Actos was supposed to be a great option for patients, but the diabetes drug has been linked to serious side effects, including bladder cancer.
Ratner says diabetes is an issue that must be addressed.
"In the last century, we've dealt with things like sanitation and clean water as public health issues," he wrote. "Well, the current epidemic of diabetes and the potential growth is a public health risk that we need to address. Even staying where we are is unsustainable."