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Main Cause of Diabetes

Main Cause of Diabetes

  By: Editors at DiabetesIQ  |  Published: January 04, 2021   
Published: January 04, 2021   

© Juan Carlos De La Calle Velez | Dreamstime.com

Diabetes is an increasingly common chronic disease among people of all age groups and genders that affects millions of people around the world. It occurs when not enough insulin is produced by the pancreas or when the body is unable to properly process the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose (blood sugar) get from your blood into your body’s cells to produce energy. Glucose is a type of sugar that the body gets from food and diabetes causes that sugar to build up in your blood. High blood sugar can potentially lead to serious health complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, kidney failure, impotence, amputations of lower extremities, and blindness.

There are several types of diabetes and, although all causes of diabetes still remain to be discovered, the known causes and risk factors are different for each type. The most common types of the disease are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs in children and young adults when their immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys beta cells responsible for making insulin in the pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes must get insulin injections or use automatic insulin pumps through their entire lifetime to provide insulin supply to the body. The major cause of this disease is believed to lie in genetics after a discovery that type 1 diabetes can develop in people with a specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex – the complex of antigens that trigger immune responses in the body. Scientists also believe that type 1 diabetes can be caused by environmental factors, such chemical toxins in food and bacterial or viral infections.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is a chronic disease that mostly occurs in adults and affects the way the body processes insulin. In patients with type 2 diabetes the pancreas produces insulin, but the cells in the body are unable to properly absorb it. That causes the pancreas to produce more insulin and eventually, the pancreas fails to make a sufficient amount of insulin for the body cells to get enough glucose required to function normally. The exact reason why the body stops processing insulin properly remains unknown, but having a family history of diabetes as well as lifestyle and diet choices and certain other risk factors may contribute to developing type 2 diabetes. Such risk factors include having little or no physical activity, being overweight or obese, having a history of heart disease or stroke, having high blood pressure, being 45 years of age or older, having a high level of triglycerides or a low level of “good” (HDL) cholesterol, having polycystic ovary syndrome, and having a history of gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a medical condition that is associated with having higher than normal blood sugar level in women during pregnancy (gestation), usually between the 24th and 28th weeks. Similarly to type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes occurs when the body cells become unable to process insulin normally and the person becomes insulin resistant, but in case of gestational diabetes, insulin resistance occurs because of the hormones produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Those hormones are required to sustain pregnancy, but they also make the body cells more resistant to insulin. Usually, the pancreas manages to produce more insulin to resolve the issue. However, in some cases, the pancreas is not up to the task. There is a number of risk factors that are linked to gestational diabetes, including having a family history of diabetes, being overweight during or before pregnancy, having high blood pressure, being diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the past, having prediabetes, previously having a baby over 9 pounds, expecting more than one baby, having PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), being physically inactive, and having a history of heart disease.

Generally, knowing what can potentially cause diabetes, may help reducing the risk of getting the disease. Even though some conditions, such as heredity, cannot be prevented or altered and scientists keep making discoveries in this field, other causes of diabetes, such as those associated with lifestyle and nutritional choices, can be prevented and avoided, keeping this dangerous diseases out of your life.


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