Type 2 Diabetes :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Type 2 Diabetes

In a healthy body, certain cells called beta cells found in the pancreas, make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use energy from food. In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells still produce insulin. However, either the cells do not respond properly to the insulin or there is not enough insulin to meet the body’s needs and keep blood glucose (blood sugar) at the right level.

Some people who have type 2 diabetes can keep it under control by losing weight, changing their diet and increasing their exercise. Others need to take medications which may include insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in American kids, especially African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. A child is at risk if he or she is overweight or has a family history of diabetes.

Use our links below to learn more about Type 2 diabetes in youth.

Adapted from the American Diabetic Association patient information.


See your child’s doctor if your child has any of these signs:

  • Is very thirsty

  • Goes to the bathroom more often during the day or at night, or has started wetting the bed

  • Has blurry vision

  • Feels very tired

  • Has darker skin around the neck, in the armpits, or in skin creases.


You can help prevent type 2 diabetes by encouraging your child to do these things:

  • Increase active play and exercise

  • Eat healthy meals and eat smaller portion sizes

  • Drink more water, and limit regular sodas, sports drinks, and juice.

  • For overweight children, limit “screen time” (television, computer and video games) to less than 2 hours a day.

  • Limit fast foods


Until someone finds a cure for diabetes, you, your child, and your child's health care team will work to keep your child's blood glucose levels as close as possible to his or her target range. This will be done by balancing food intake and activity. It may also include medicine. Losing weight also will be an important part of your child’s diabetes care plan.


The more calories are burned up, the better your child’s body uses insulin, and the more often blood glucose levels will be within his or her target range. Your child needs to be active every day. This activity should be something that will raise the heartbeat for 20 minutes or more.

Activities may include shooting hoops, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, hackysack, or any activity that that will do this. Activities like watching TV, spending hours at the computer, playing video games, and hanging out with friends do not count as exercise.


Your child may need to take diabetes medicine to help him or her feel better. This will help keep your child’s blood glucose levels within your child's target range. Be sure to ask how and when to take the medicine, and how much to take. You should also know how the medicine works, whether there are any side effects, and when you should report side effects to your child's doctor.


Diabetes can make your child feel very alone. He or she may not know anyone else who has diabetes but they are not alone. Almost 21 million people in the United States have diabetes and most of them have type 2. Diabetes can affect anyone including Olympic athletes, sports stars, famous actors, and people doing just about everything else.

Sometimes it helps for children to meet others their own age who have diabetes. Your local American Diabetes Association (ADA) office can help tell you about different group activities. Your child can join a walk or bike ride that raises money to find a cure for diabetes. To find your local ADA office and learn more about activities in your area, call 1-888-DIABETES (342-2383).

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