Research into diabetes is increasing all the time. Despite this no one actually knows what specifically causes diabetes. This has led to a number of rumours circulating some which are partially true and others which hold no truth at all. In this article I will be discussing what is known about the causes of diabetes.
1) GENERAL CAUSES:- We know that diabetes develops as a result of your body’s cells not getting enough insulin (a hormone which helps convert blood sugar/glucose into energy). This is usually because your pancreas fails to generate enough insulin or because your body’s cells start to resist insulin. Although we know what leads to the development of diabetes we do not currently know why this happens in certain individuals and not others.
2) GESTATIONAL DIABETES (GDM):- Again we do not know the exact causes of GDM although it is strongly linked with hormonal changes that occur during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. During this time the placenta releases hormones which block the normal action of insulin to ensure that the growing baby gets enough glucose. This causes pregnant women’s insulin needs to increase by two or three times the normal rate. Failure to meet this need leads to the onset of GDM. Approximately 5% of pregnant women develop GDM and although we have a good idea of what causes it, we do not know why it affects certain women and not others. There are a number of associated risk factors but currently no definitive reason.
3) TYPE 1 DIABETES:- Type 1 diabetes is caused by damage to the pancreas as the result of an auto-immune attack where the body’s immune system starts to attack the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas. Once more, whilst we know what causes type 1 diabetes we are still unsure what triggers this response. A number of suggestions have been put forward (including viral infections and faulty nerves) but currently none of these suggestions can be applied universally.
4) TYPE 2 DIABETES AND PRE-DIABETES:- Pre-diabetes is an early form of type 2 diabetes and the causes of each are very similar. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body stops responding to insulin. The pancreas reacts by producing additional insulin and the liver responds by releasing extra glucose. Over time this limits the effectiveness of the pancreas and further increases insulin resistance in the body. As with the other types of diabetes we do not know what causes the above reaction. However, there is very strong evidence that type 2 diabetes is linked to age, ethnicity, family history, inactivity and obesity.
5) RUMOURS:- Since the exact cause of diabetes is unknown, there are a number of false suggestions floating around. These include diabetes being contagious (there is a hereditary element but it cannot be passed directly from person to person), diabetes being caused by sugar (excessive sugar consumption does not cause diabetes but is linked with obesity, a diabetes risk factor) and stress causing diabetes (stress can aggravate the condition in diabetics but there is currently no evidence that it causes diabetes).
Currently, we have a general understanding of what happens inside our bodies to cause diabetes. However, the trigger behind these causes is still a mystery. Perhaps the strongest link is that between inactivity, obesity and type 2 diabetes but even this does not fully explain why some obese individuals never develop the disease. As research into the causes of diabetes continues, the best advice is to try and keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range. Keeping your weight under control, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can all play their part in this process.
Every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative but it is intended for general information only. Diabetes is a medical condition and this article is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical practitioner. If you have any concerns regarding any form of diabetes you should seek the advice of your doctor immediately.
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