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There's a killer stalking our children. Type two diabetes is on the increase in the United States and it's affecting our kids. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in this country. Yet, how much do most of us know about this silent killer?

In 1997, diabetes cost U.S. citizens $98 billion dollars. Diabetics spend nearly four times more on health care than non diabetics. In the U.S alone, 5.9% of us will get diabetes; that's 15.7 million people.

In a normal body, the pancreas houses beta cells. These beta cells produce insulin, a hormone that enables other cells in our bodies to absorb glucose. Glucose feeds the cells and gives them energy. Without food, the cells can literally starve. Without insulin to help the cells absorb it, all that glucose stays in the blood stream.

There are two major types of diabetes: type one and type two. Another type is gestational diabetes, which some pregnant women experience. This type usually disappears after delivery, though. Type one diabetes, known also as juvenile or insulin dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disease. The immune system of the type one diabetes patient sees the beta cells the body needs to create insulin as an enemy and destroys them. This prevents other body cells from being able to use glucose for fuel and the level of glucose in the blood rises out of control while the body starves.

Type two diabetes is a metabolic disease. The body is unable to produce enough insulin to allow the body's cells to absorb glucose or sometimes the cells just ignore the insulin. This form of diabetes, in the past, was rarely seen in children. However, this is no longer the case. More and more children are being diagnosed each year with type two diabetes.

Weight seems to be a key risk factor in type two diabetes. Almost 80% of children diagnosed with type two diabetes are overweight. Other risk factors include a family history of either type one or two diabetes, and ethnicity. Diabetes is more common among African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.

What are the warning signs? Weigh loss without diet, frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue or hunger and more seriously, trouble seeing and coma.

How is diabetes managed? Type one diabetics must use insulin injections to replace the insulin their bodies cannot produce. Type two diabetics have more options. This type of diabetes can often be controlled by lifestyle. Sometimes, the use of insulin injections or pills is necessary.

All diabetics need to be health conscious. A good and consistent diet of low fat, high carbohydrate foods is important. Weight loss or management of healthy weight is necessary. Exercise should be an important part of the diabetic's life. Testing the level of glucose in the bloodstream is very important. This level will fluctuate depending on diet, exercise, weight and other factors like stress and will determine how much insulin is necessary to keep the blood sugar level normal.

Uncontrolled diabetes has serious and life threatening consequences. High glucose levels can damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys and heart. Blindness, kidney failure, heart attack and cardiovascular disease, amputation, coma and death can result from unmanaged diabetes. There is no cure, but proper management can help keep the disease under control.

There is some very recent good news in diabetes research. Canadian researchers at the University of Alberta announced that after injecting insulin producing pancreatic cells into the livers of eight severe diabetics, the test subjects livers began producing insulin and liberated the patients from the use of insulin injections. A larger study is planned for this summer to attempt to replicate these results. This news could mean the end of insulin-dependent diabetes. Whether this treatment would be effective with type two diabetes is unclear.

To determine if you or your child is at risk for diabetes, the American Diabetes Association offers a risk test that your doctor can provide you with or you can find online. This disease is too serious to ignore and our children are at risk. Evaluate the risk for you and your children and start making life saving changes today.