Type 2 Diabetes: How Is It Treated?
Kids who have type 2 diabetes can help themselves stay healthy by taking these three very important steps:
- getting to a healthy weight (by eating healthy and getting exercise)
- taking medicine if the doctor feels it’s necessary
- checking blood sugar levels often
Doing all three can get a little confusing because there’s a lot to remember. What comes in handy when you can’t keep everything straight in your head? A plan, where everything is written down for you. That’s why kids (and adults) who have diabetes get their own diabetes treatment plan.
This plan will help you and your parents know what to do to help you stay healthy, active, growing, and feeling good. You, your parents, and members of your diabetes health care team will work together to make a treatment plan that’s right for you. Doing what your plan tells you to do will help keep you healthy now — and help you avoid health problems later.
The plan’s main goal is to keep blood sugar levels (also called blood glucose levels) from getting too high or too low. The body gets glucose (say: GLOO-kose), a sugar, from the food we eat. Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to all the cells in the body. Like the battery in a cell phone, glucose provides energy for the body’s cells so they can work. Insulin (say: IN-suh-lin) is a hormone that helps the glucose get into the cells.
In kids who have type 2 diabetes, insulin doesn’t do its job as well, so glucose is less able to enter the cells. It just hangs around and builds up in the blood, causing the blood glucose level to rise. And when blood sugar levels go too high, a person can feel sick and may have health problems.
Nobody wants that, so let’s look at the three steps that will help keep a kid with type 2 diabetes feeling good.
Getting to a Healthy Weight
A lot of kids with type 2 diabetes weigh more than they should. How can you get to a healthy weight? The first step is to talk with your doctor, who can tell you how to eat healthy and add exercise (also known as play) into your daily routine.
If you take these steps, and your weight improves, you may be able to get your blood sugar levels into a healthier range. If that happens, your doctor may decide you don’t have to take medicine for diabetes anymore.
To eat healthy, your doctor might suggest that you watch out for two “C’s” — carbohydrates and calories. You don’t want too much of either one. Foods containing a lot of carbohydrates, such as pasta and candy, will make your blood sugar levels increase, which can make it harder to keep your diabetes under control.
And calories — you probably know — are units of energy that each food contains. If you eat too many calories and don’t burn off the extra energy, your body will store it as fat. Too much stored fat can cause someone to be overweight.
A diabetes meal plan can help you learn about balanced, healthy eating. It’s a plan that’s written down and designed especially for you. Meal plans can help guide you about what kinds of foods to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And the plan also can teach you how to eat the right amounts to help you get to a healthy weight and control your blood sugar levels.
Some kids might think they don’t like exercise, but not all exercise is the same. Did you know that playing in an active way — like playing tag or being at the playground — is considered exercise? It is. Really, any kind of play that gets you moving is a kind of exercise. Even helping your mom or dad with chores around the house can be exercise. Hauling groceries in from the car? That’s exercise, too.
Not only does exercise help kids stay at a healthy weight, it can lower blood sugar levels and help you feel more fit. Exercise can make blood sugar levels change, so you might be worried that you’ll feel sick while being active.
Your diabetes health care team can tell you what to do if you don’t feel right while you’re exercising. Knowing what to do before it happens can help you deal with it more easily and start feeling better faster.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything about diet and exercise. Between your doctor, other members of your health care team, and your family, you’ll have lots of grownups to help you — just ask!
Medicine taken by mouth is sometimes used to treat type 2 diabetes. This medicines help people make or use insulin better. But sometimes medicine taken by mouth still isn’t enough to keep blood sugar levels under control.
Kids with type 2 diabetes might have to take insulin shots. No one likes to get shots, but the good news is that kids who eat healthy foods, stay active, and get to a good weight might be able to get their blood sugar levels back down to normal. If they do that, they might not even need to take any medicines at all.
Checking Blood Sugar Levels
Checking your blood sugar levels is like giving yourself a little checkup. How is your treatment plan working? Your blood sugar level can provide a clue. Testing your blood sugar level is the only way to know how you are doing with your diabetes control from day to day.
Your doctor will also have you get a different kind of blood test a couple of times each year that shows how well your blood sugars are being controlled by your treatment plan over the past several months.
Your diabetes health care team will let you and your parents know what your blood sugar levels should be and when you should test them. Kids with type 2 diabetes usually test blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter at least twice a day. You may have to test more often than that if you’re taking insulin, have just been told you have type 2 diabetes, or are having some trouble keeping your blood sugar levels under control.
Does that sound like a lot to remember? It is — but remember that you have your plan to guide you and lots of adults to help you put that plan into action!
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: June 2015