Young diabetics up four times: Experts (Getty Images)Young diabetics up four times: Experts (Getty Images)
In common parlance it was once referred to as adult-onset diabetes, but in yet another instance of disease names rapidly becoming obsolete, type-2 diabetes is increasingly striking the young. Data from the national registry, which is tracking diabetes among the young, has shown that one in four diabetes patients below the age of 25 suffer from the more aggressive type-2 form.

The registry , established by the Indian Council of Medical Research in 2006, has enrolled around 5,500 patients with diabetes across 10 centres in the country , including Chennai-based Madras Diabetes Research Foundation.

The figures, compiled over a decade, show that although type-1 diabetes continues to be more prevalent among the 0-25 years age group at 63%, type-2 stood at 25%.”Two decades ago, finding a case of type-2 diabetes below the age of 10 was extremely rare, if at all,” said Dr V Mohan of Madras Diabetes Research Foundation. He now has four patients below 10 years of age, the youngest being seven.

In type-1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, without which the cells fail to absorb sugar. In type-2 diabetes, the body finds it hard to use insulin the right way .

Experts say the prevalence of young diabetics has increased four-fold over a 20-year period, largely due to an increase in early onset of type-2 diabetes. This, they say, could be be due to increased awareness and early diagnosis, or the burgeoning epidemic of childhood obesity . Family history of diabetes, studies have found, is also much stronger among type-2 diabetes compared to type-1. However, some say , it could be because the disease remains poorly understood. “Despite having World Diabetes Day for several years, we still haven’t managed to bring it down unlike other diseases and infections like TB and HIV ,” pointed diabetologist A Panneerselvam.

Close to 2,000 of the 5,500 patients in the registry are from the city. Within this, the prevalence of type-2 diabetes is around 45%, said Dr Mohan, adding that around 26% of them were diagnosed before the age of 15. Doctors say this section experiences a more rapid progression of comorbidities that are more aggressive than what is typically seen in adults. While screening for diabetes in the younger age groups is not done routinely on one hand, treatment options are also limited as most drugs, say experts