In a cross-site review of medical records, US researchers note that during the COVID-19 type 2 pandemicdiabetic A sharp increase in children and adolescents.
A research paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics reports an increase in type 2 diabetes diagnoses in children. It remains unclear whether the viral infection itself was a factor in the increase. The authors said switching to homeschooling and skipping sports and school activities likely increased risks as “environmental factors.”
Sheila N. Maggie, assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and first author of the paper, said low physical activity and being overweight are known risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. “During the lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus, children have been cut off from their normal daily routines at school, sports and other hobbies,” Magee added. “Not only were they less physically active, they had to stay home and spend more time watching TV, playing video games, or interacting with other electronic devices.”
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to regulate, use, and process sugar in the body. Without treatment and control, it can lead to heart disease, nerve and kidney damage, blurred vision, and other irreversible organ damage. Maggie added that previous research from other institutions has shown that children with diabetes develop complications faster than adults.
77% increase in new diagnoses
For the current study, US scientists compared rates of new type 2 diabetes in people aged 8 to 21 in the two years prior to the epidemic (01/03/2018 to 02/29/2020) up to the first year of the epidemic. (01/03/2020 to 02/28/2021).
Researchers identified 3,113 children, adolescents, and young adults between the ages of 8 and 21 years from 24 centers in the United States during this period. The average number of new diagnoses per year in the two years prior to the epidemic increased from 825 to 1,463 in the first year of the epidemic, an increase of 77%.
During the pandemic, more boys developed type 2 diabetes than girls
In the first year of the pandemic, records showed that more boys (55%) were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than girls (45%) – the opposite of percentages in the years before the pandemic. “This was one of the most unusual findings of our study,” said pediatric endocrinologist Risa Wolf, associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and second author of the study. “We typically see more girls than boys newly developing type 2 diabetes, although it’s not clear why.”
Particularly affected minorities
Compared with rates in previous years, the number of diagnoses in young patients of South American descent nearly doubled in the first year of the epidemic and doubled in young patients of African descent. In patients of Caucasian (European) descent, the researchers noted a decrease in cases.
Magee explained that it is already known that type 2 diabetes disproportionately affects minorities and families with social and economic burdens, and the new study shows that these disparities have deepened.
Children may have received medical treatment later in the epidemic year
In addition, in the years leading up to the pandemic, more young patients were enrolled as outpatients (57%) than in the pandemic year. More adolescents newly diagnosed with the disease were hospitalized in the year of the pandemic (57%). This indicates that they were already experiencing more severe symptoms at the time of diagnosis.
Overall, researchers found that 21% of young adults actually had “severe metabolic imbalances,” their most serious symptom vomitingLethargy (apathy), confusion and rapid breathing. Before the epidemic, such signs appeared in only 9% of children with new type 2 diabetes. However, because the study evaluated medical records retrospectively, it is possible that some of the information was not complete, the authors qualified.
“We have to make sure that we identify patients early so that we can treat them early and prevent complications,” Wolf emphasized.
Wolf also advised parents to talk to their children’s pediatricians about being overweight. “Now is the time to give kids extra attention to exercise and a healthy diet,” Maggie added.
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