Pediatric – Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes

two girls running in the park.

Insulin Resistance

In children and adults, insulin resistance is the predecessor of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. With this condition, the child’s cells don’t respond properly to the insulin their body makes.  All cells in your body need sugar for energy. The sugar gets inside the cell through a door (a channel really, but it acts like a door). That door only opens when insulin unlocks it. The process of unlocking the door and getting the sugar inside the cell is usually very efficient. A little insulin is usually all that is needed to unlock the door, and the sugar then enters the cell to be used as energy.

However, in insulin resistance, instead of one lock on the door, there are 10. Thus, you need more insulin around to unlock all the locks, so the sugar can get inside the cells. Over time, if the person does not eat healthily or exercise regularly, then the number of locks increases. Finally, there are so many locks on the cells, that the body cannot produce enough insulin to unlock them all. This causes the sugar in the blood to rise, and then type 2 diabetes is diagnosed.

Insulin resistance is the root cause of many metabolic diseases like prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.  The good news is that a lifestyle change that includes healthy nutrition and consistent exercise is the best way to combat the disease.


photo for Dr. Joshua measuring the height of a girl.
Dr. Joshua Smith, Pediatric Endocrinology Specialist

When blood sugar levels are high in children but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, it is diagnosed as prediabetes.  Especially in children, if prediabetes goes untreated, the condition will likely progress to the state of type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes in a child will almost inevitably cause long-term damage to their heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and nerves.  Unfortunately, the disease may show no signs or symptoms, which increases the likelihood of long-term damage to the child’s internal organs.

The signs to look for in your child that prediabetes is progressing to type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Like insulin resistance, the most impactful treatment of prediabetes is lifestyle change.  Specifically, healthy nutrition and consistent exercise will have the most impact.  Medication may also be prescribed.

Diabetes Education

Encouraging and teaching your child to eat healthy and to exercise will help prevent the condition from progressing to type 2 diabetes.   Our education department is comprised of licensed and registered dieticians and certified diabetes care and education specialists who work with patients and their families to help establish good eating habits.  If necessary, medication can be prescribed.

More Information

For more information about insulin resistance or prediabetes, the American Diabetes Association has extensive information on their website. If you feel your child may be suffering from signs of prediabetes, don’t delay seeking treatment, and please give us a call or fill out the form below to request an appointment.

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