Type 1 and type 2 diabetics long been treated with insulin injections to maintain glucose levels in the blood. Though some non-insulin treatment options have made a splash in the medical field, many children suffering from type 2 diabetes have struggled with treatment options.

In the face of increasing numbers of diabetic children, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially approved a new type of non-insulin injection known as Victoza, or liraglutide.

According to the FDA website, Victoza is the first non-insulin drug that has been approved to treat the condition in children since metformin back in 2000. Though Victoza is nothing new — the drug hit the market back in 2010 — the injection was not initially approved for pediatric use.

“The FDA encourages drugs to be made available to the widest number of patients possible when there is evidence of safety and efficacy,” notes Lisa Yanoff, the acting director for the FDA’s Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products.

“Victoza has now been shown to improve blood sugar control in pediatric patients with type 2 diabetes. The expanded indication provides an additional treatment option at a time when an increasing number of children are being diagnosed with this disease.”

Even though most cases of type 2 diabetes occurs in adults, more than 5,000 new cases develop in children and teens every year. Now, children over the age of 10 can officially benefit from this alternative treatment option.

Victoza works in a manner similar to that of insulin: it mimics the glucagon-like peptide, known as GLP-1, causing a reaction in the pancreas. This, in turn, causes the pancreas to slow the rate of digestion. And when digestion slows, lower levels of glucose are produced in the liver which pumps around 1.5 liters of blood every minute. When these systems work together, this also helps the pancreas produce more insulin when it’s actually needed.

While this medication is not approved for children and adults with diabetic ketoacidosis, Victoza has been shown to reduce the risk for major heart issues, including cardiovascular disease. But this kind of treatment may also limit the number of Alzheimer’s cases in the future.

As the number of diabetics increases, so does the number of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This memory condition affects more than five million people across the country, but the incidence of this condition is only expected to grow. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 70% of diabetics will inevitably develop Alzheimer’s as they age. As a result, researchers are starting to consider Alzheimer’s as a type of late-stage form of type 2 diabetes.

A recent study published by the Nemours Children’s Health System in Jacksonville, FL also found that type 1 diabetes can lead to other mental issues in children. When researchers compared the MRIs of diabetic children and their non-diabetic counterparts, they found that brain development was slowed among children with the condition.

“We found significant detectable and persistent differences in the volume of different brain areas that participate in a lot of cognitive functions. There was slower growth across the board in the brain,” notes Nelly Mauras, one of the co-principal investigators of the study. “There are plenty of smart kids with type 1 diabetes. But these data along with others show that the status quo [for blood sugar management] probably isn’t good enough to prevent diabetes complications in the brain.”

This is primarily because abnormal insulin levels and unregulated sugar levels can have a deleterious effect on brain function. But diabetics may also face other chronic issues, like pain and weakness. It’s estimated that 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain throughout the world, but diabetics may struggle in particular. This is especially problematic among older diabetics who may face a number of other health issues associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, research has shown that most type 2 diabetics develop the condition at age 45 or older. This is the typical age range where senior health issues begin to rise, including problems with vision, mobility, and even oral health. About 47% of adults over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease and the number of dental implants is growing each year. But nipping diabetic issues in the bud as early as possible can help stop some of the problems associated with diabetes.

The FDA stresses that this new form of diabetic treatment isn’t meant to replace insulin. Additionally, the organization warns that parents should discontinue treatment if Victoza sparks a reaction in your child. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of this newly accessible drug before making any decisions for your family.