What Causes Diabetes?

Diabetes is a medical condition that is characterized by the body’s inability to metabolize glucose effectively. Too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood can cause several health problems including poor circulation, nerve damage, and even death. Once a person is diagnosed with diabetes, monitoring of blood sugar levels and following the doctor’s treatment plan is imperative for preventing diabetes complications. What causes diabetes?

There are three main types of diabetes. Each of the diabetes types has its own cause. Type 1 diabetes occurs in infancy or childhood. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is necessary to metabolize sugar. With type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, the child is born with a lack of insulin-producing cells or the insulin production is insufficient to metabolize glucose.

With type 1 diabetes, the immune system of the body is attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Some doctors and researchers believe that an infection or toxin might be the trigger that causes the immune system to start attacking the insulin-producing cells.

Type 2 diabetes typically occurs in adulthood. The insulin production may have decreased to the point that it no longer metabolizes glucose well. In many cases, the individual with type 2 diabetes is still producing insulin, but the insulin has become less potent in metabolizing blood sugar.

When the individual is producing insulin but the insulin has become ineffective, this is called insulin resistance. High blood pressure, obesity, and a high-fat diet are considered risk factors of type 2 diabetes. Alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle may also increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is partially hereditary in that a family history of diabetes will not automatically cause a person to develop the disease but it can increase the chance they will develop diabetes. As people get older, their risk of type 2 diabetes increases. Some ethnic groups like African Americans and Hispanic Americans seem to have an increased risk of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs only in women during a pregnancy. The gestational diabetes is most common during the third trimester. After delivery, the women’s blood sugar levels usually return to normal. The changes in hormone levels during pregnancy can elevate the woman’s blood sugar levels. A pregnant woman is considered at risk for gestational diabetes if she was overweight when she conceived, has given birth to a baby weighing over nine pounds, had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, or has a family history of diabetes.

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