Entries in young people (1)


Diabetes a Major Concern Among Young People

Stockbyte(BOSTON) -- At 20, Erika Rodriguez struggles to do the adult thing and manage the Type 2 diabetes that's remained stubbornly uncontrolled since she was diagnosed in junior high.

She frequently forgets to test her blood sugar and take her medications. Down from 260 pounds to 213 pounds on a 5-foot-3 frame, she's no longer morbidly obese, but a BMI of 38 puts her solidly among obese Americans.

Although she doesn't feel sick, she takes medication to protect her from the silent indications of early kidney disease and remains at risk of the heart attacks, strokes, blindness and eventual amputations that make diabetes one of the most brutal maladies.

Her struggle has become the new face of the nation's intertwined epidemics of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as ever-widening waistlines in tender years have shifted to children and young adults the burdens of a chronic illness once called "adult onset" diabetes because it struck at 40 or later.

Because the disorder can go undetected for years, it's difficult to quantify the numbers of young Type 2 diabetics.

Like many younger patients with diabetes, Rodriguez has had a tough time making lifestyle changes for a diagnosis that blindsided her.

"When they first told me about it, I was in shock," she told ABC News Friday. "I didn't know what I was going to do. I thought, 'oh, my God.' I thought I was going to die."

She has since joined a clinical trial at Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, where doctors, nurses and nutritionists regularly implore her to exercise, test her blood sugar and take metformin pills and insulin injections.

Nevertheless, she admits she's largely noncompliant.

"I'm worried. I try to do one thing at a time to be able to change the way my health is now," she said. Perhaps this fall, "in between classes or after classes I could go to the gym and work out."

That youthful denial of potential death and disability down the road troubles diabetes specialists, who say that halting Type 2 diabetes' menacing march into youth requires the discipline and focus to make lasting changes.

Stubborn resistance to change, even among those participating in innovative programs for the disorder, is among topics under discussion at the American Diabetes Association's 71st Scientific Sessions in San Diego, where more than 13,500 people, including Rodriguez' doctor, Lori Laffel, a pediatric endocrinologist at Joslin, are gathered through Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio