The medical community has long been aware of the health problems that can be caused by obesity in adults, including heart attacks, kidney failure and the development of medical conditions such as type-2 diabetes. In the past, America’s obesity problem was largely confined to adults. Recent decades, however, have seen a dramatic increase in the number of obese American children with type-2 diabetes.
While healthcare providers knew this was not a good development, a study published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine gives doctors, Oregon parents and government officials a clearer picture of how this disturbing trend might impact Social Security Disability programs in the future.
According to researchers, type-2 diabetes progresses far more rapidly in children than it does in adults and is much more difficult to treat effectively. Why that is isn’t exactly clear at this point, but growth rates and the hormonal changes associated with puberty are suspected as potential causes. In any event, researchers found that normal, oral type-2 diabetes treatments quit working in about half of the nearly 700 children studied within a few years.
This is alarming because when type-2 diabetes cannot be controlled well, the risk of heart disease, blindness and other serious health problems becomes much greater. It is also alarming because the risks also increase greatly the longer a person has the condition.
In the meantime, medical researchers will continue working to develop a more effective regimen of treatment for diabetic children. Until then, however, the number of American adults who need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits at increasingly younger ages because of complications from type-2 diabetes can also be expected to rise sharply.
Source: The New York Times, “Obesity-Linked Diabetes in Children Resists Treatment,” Denise Grady, April 29, 2012