By Salynn Boyles, Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
The number of children and teens with type 1 and type 2 diabetes is expected to spike dramatically in the next 40 years, creating what one expert calls a potential catastrophe for the nation’s health care system.
Rates of type 2 diabetes could increase four times over the next 40 years, and rates of type 1 diabetes may triple, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s numbers assume that the rate of diabetes will increase over time.
Even if the rates stay as they are now, the number of children and teens with type 2 diabetes is projected to climb by almost 50 percent over the same period, and the number with type 1 diabetes will rise by 23 percent.
Right now, about 215,000, or 0.26 percent, of children and young adults under 20 years old have diabetes. The spike in both type 1 and 2 will be particularly high among minorities.
“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,” says American Diabetes Association Chief Scientific and Medical Officer Robert E. Ratner, MD. “The simple fact is we are losing the battle by not preventing this disease.”
Just two decades ago, type 2 diabetes was almost never seen in children, but it has become more common with higher rates of childhood obesity, Ratner says.
Public health efforts that address the childhood obesity epidemic could have a profound impact on the future of type 2 diabetes, Ratner noted in an editorial published with the CDC report in the December issue of the journal Diabetes Care.
Type 1 Rates Rising Among Minorities
Type 1 diabetes is not linked to obesity and little is known about how to prevent it. It is also not clear why rates are rising, says Sharon Saydah, PhD, of the CDC.
The disease has historically been diagnosed mostly among whites in the United States, but this is changing, Saydah says.
Projections suggest that by 2050, about 45 percent of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will be from minority populations.
The CDC report noted it will be important that these children have access to care.
Saydah says the cost of delivering health care to an increasing number of children and teens with diabetes could very well overwhelm the health care system if the less conservative projections become reality.
Medical expenditures among children and teens with diabetes are typically at least six times higher than for children and teens without the disease.