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Possible correlation between childhood diabetes and pandemic being studied

Posted at 6:10 AM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 07:10:57-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Medical experts are reporting an uptick in childhood diabetes cases lately, and now studies are being done to understand if there is a correlation with the pandemic.

Dr. Christopher Maloney, Physician in Chief for Children's Physicians, said last summer, pediatricians in Omaha began noticing something peculiar happening.

“So we were in the pandemic for at least a year when people started asking themselves, ‘wow, we’re seeing a little bit more new-onset diabetes, do you think that there could be this correlation?’” Maloney said.

Maloney said last year, they saw more children being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes than in 2020. He said they also saw an uptick in adults with Type 2 Diabetes.

Unlike Type 2 Diabetes which is when your cells become insulin-resistant, Type 1 Diabetes is when insulin is no longer being produced.

It can be treated with insulin pumps and glucose monitoring, but can’t be outgrown or dieted away. It's a lifelong condition.

Maloney said diabetes is partly genetic and partly environmental.

“So its very possible that viruses can be that environmental influence," Maloney said.

Studies are being done to see if COVID-19 could be associated with this uptick in cases.

To determine if that's the case in Omaha, Maloney wants to look a few years further back to see if there’s a trend. He said Children's has been approached about being part of a larger study.

“The study will tell us," Maloney said. "I think there’s not going to be a statistically significant difference.”

The doctor adds that infections and inflammation of any kind could be associated with diabetes.

Some early papers suggest, perhaps because of pandemic delays with checkups, diagnoses were also delayed.

Maloney expects it could take around two years for the medical community to have any solid answers on the issue.

“I wouldn’t put it to parents to have to worry any more about having to raise a child," Maloney said.

Regardless, it's good to know what to look for when it comes to Type 1 Diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms include unquenchable thirst, losing weight without trying, increased hunger, blurry vision, numb or tingling hands, feeling tired, having very dry skin and sores that slowly heal.

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