Oklahoma seeing increase of diabetes in children, COVID-19 may be to blame

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) –Doctors at OU Health are noticing a pattern when it comes to COVID-19 and diabetes, especially in children.

“All across the board, we are seeing higher numbers of diabetes especially in children,” said Dr. Jeanie Tryggestad, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital pediatric endocrinologist.

Oklahoma Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Jeanie Tryggestad says OU Health is noticing a dramatic increase in diabetes patients.

“We have been able to look back in reflection over the last five years of data and we’re seeing a pretty dramatic increase, upward approaching 20%, just in this one-year timeframe,” Tryggestad said.

She says the most common form of diabetes in children is Type 1.

“Type 1 diabetes exists because the body has attacked the cells, specifically the beta cells, that make insulin in the body. So, you are no longer able to make insulin. You are dependent on getting insulin injections every day,” Tryggestad said.

But you can also see Type 2 diabetes in children. Type 2 is when you can make insulin but it’s not enough.

She says they’re seeing an increase in both forms and it’s happening across the country

“It makes us at least think there’s something going on with COVID,” Tryggestad said. “There are many people across the nation looking at different cohort studies to try and look at this relationship and understand specifically what it is about COVID that may be triggering this increase in diabetes.”

Tryggestad says medical professionals have been studying if COVID affects beta cells in the pancreas, which are the cells that make insulin.

“The results so far haven’t been conclusive,” Tryggestad said.

But there are some signs you can look out for such as if your child has increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss, vomiting, or changes in breathing.

“Any of those, we would encourage you to come in. Come in earlier so we are not to the point of a severe acidosis,” Tryggestad said.

Tryggestad says if you are noticing any of those changes in your child, it may be important to see a doctor.

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