Causes of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Genes
If you have type 1 diabetes, blame Mom and Dad—genetic factors are the primary reason why people develop the disease. Research shows that most people with type 1 diabetes share genetic markers called human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles, which are related to immune-system function. Mutations in the insulin gene have also been linked to type 1.

Baby Fat
Big babies are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that every two-pound increase in birth weight over 5.5 pounds increases a child”s risk of developing the disease by 7 percent.

Viruses
Recent studies have suggested that enteroviruses—the most common cause of viral infections in humans—can be linked to the development of type 1 diabetes. When scientists autopsied the pancreases of 72 type 1 diabetics, 61 percent tested positive for antigens produced by the viruses, which cause respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal diseases, and meningitis.

C-Section Delivery
Babies delivered by Caesarean section develop diabetes more often than babies delivered vaginally. In 2008, researchers at Queens University in Belfast, Ireland analyzed 20 studies from 16 countries and found that C-section babies are 20 percent more likely to develop type 1. The researchers think that C-sections may alter the newborns’ immune system development. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system attacks the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells.

Pancreas Problems
A damaged pancreas can inhibit insulin production, eventually causing type 1 diabetes. Here are four ways the pancreas can be damaged.

Pancreatitis: Widespread injury and dysfunction of the pancreas normally caused by excessive alcohol or cigarette use. Diabetes results because pancreatitis kills the insulin-producing cells.

Cystic Fibrosis: A genetic condition that causes the body to produce excessive, thick, sticky mucus. The mucus scars the pancreas and prevents it from making enough insulin.

Hemochromatosis: A disease that causes excess iron to build up in the pancreas, eventually damaging the organ’s insulin-producing cells. Primary hemochromatosis is a genetic disease that rarely shows symptoms until middle age. Secondary, or non-genetic, hemochromatosis develops in adulthood and is most often caused by alcoholism or anemia. Men are more likely to have hemochromatosis than women, as menstruation rids the female body of excess iron.

Removal of the Pancreas: If the pancreas is removed due to an accident, such as a car crash, or a disease, such as pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis, the body will no longer create insulin. Type 1 diabetes will then develop.

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