|What Are The Causes Of Diabetes?
If you or someone you loved recently received a diabetes diagnosis you may very well wonder about the causes and if there was anything you could have done to prevent it. Diabetes prevention guidelines make sense for everyone to follow because they involve adopting healthy lifestyle advice such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining an ideal body weight and exercising regularly. While there is no doubt that adopting a healthier lifestyle could save hundreds of thousands of Americans from developing type 2 diabetes (as well as lots of other nasty conditions), there is little or nothing that can be done to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes.
Causes Of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age but usually starts when a person is a child or young adult. With this condition the body stops produces insulin so it has no way of controlling blood sugar levels. Once the condition sets in, the patient needs a daily injection of insulin or they risk falling critically ill and dying. Possible causes include:
While the exact cause of type 1 is not known, it is considered an autoimmune disease. The immune system is essential for protecting the body against germs and infections, we could not survive without it. When it is working correctly it recognizes foreign ‘intruders’ in the body and attacks them. In some people however their immune system is over sensitive or just plain faulty. For example if someone's system over reacts to dust or pollen they can develop asthma. With type 1 diabetes the immune system mistakes the pancreas as the ‘enemy’ and attacks it, destroying its ability to make insulin. Type 1 diabetes tends to occur in people who have other autoimmune diseases like allergies, eczema, celiac disease or hashimoto’s disease (thyroid).
People with type 1 diabetes often have specific genetic material in their chromosomes that are not present in people without the condition. It is possible to carry out a genetic test to see if you have these abnormalities, but even if you do, it does not mean you will develop the disease. Many people with the abnormalities do not develop it, so it means that other factors in addition to DNA must be at play.
It is thought that some viruses attack the pancreas, quickly reducing its ability to make insulin. Or in some cases the virus may consist of materials that are also present in the pancreas tissue cells. So when the immune system fights the virus, it also ends up attacking the pancreas because it contains the same material. Researchers have not yet identified a particular virus but there are many possible culprits.
Believe it or not, bad weather might cause type 1 diabetes! Type 1 tends to develop more often in winter than in summer and is more common in people living in cold climates.
Some doctors believe that certain chemicals in cow's milk might bring on type 1 diabetes. Researchers are currently comparing the rates of diabetes between babies who were breastfed and those who were given cow's milk.
Causes Of Type 2 Diabetes
90 percent of diabetics are type 2, and the condition usually occurs after the age of 40 (which is why it used to be called ‘adult onset’ diabetes). Type 2 diabetics become insulin resistant, which effectively means their body can no longer control its blood sugar levels. Scientists know a lot more about the causes of type 2 than the other types. Type 2 is NOT considered an autoimmune disease. It does however appear to run in families (it has a much stronger link to genetics than type 1 diabetes).
Studies of identical twins show that if one develops type 2 diabetes there is a 90 percent chance that the other one will too. If one parent develops it, the child has a 40 percent chance of doing so.
People who are obese and don't exercise regularly are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes (type 1 diabetics on the other hand are more likely to be thin or normal weight). As obesity tends to run in families, this may partly explain why type 2 diabetes also runs in families. It is not that an unhealthy lifestyle directly causes type 2 diabetes, but rather it increases the risk of it occurring.
Causes Of Gestational Diabetes
Type 3 or gestational diabetes is a temporary form of the disease which can appear in pregnancy and usually clears up after delivery and childbirth. It appears in 4 to 8 percent of all pregnancies in America. It is likely to be linked to high levels of hormones in the body and women are more at risk of developing it if they:
• are overweight or obese.
• previously gave birth to a large baby weighing 9 pounds (4.5kg) or more.
• had gestational diabetes when expecting a previous baby.
• have a family history of diabetes.
• have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Myths: What Does NOT Cause Diabetes
Sugar: Eating lots of sweet foods does not directly cause diabetes. But it might bring out the disease by making you fat.
Catching It: Although unidentified viruses are suspected of causing type 1 diabetes, most doctors do not think you can catch the disease like a common cold. However some disagree and say it may be possible if you are already genetically predisposed to the disease.
If you have queries on this or any other female health topic, see our section on womens health questions. Next, read about the symptoms of diabetes or jump straight to diabetes treatment.