Chances are, you know someone with diabetes, or someone in your family has it. But what causes it? How does a person develop the symptoms of diabetes?
There are basically two types of diabetes, Type I and Type II. These differ as to their cause and treatment. Here are some ideas about what causes diabetes.
Type I diabetes is caused by a malfunctioning pancreas. What causes the pancreas to malfunction differs from case to case. It tends to run in families, but some individuals have developed diabetes in childhood when no one in their family has any history of the disease.
In some individuals, their own immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys its cells, thereby rendering it useless. In others with Type I diabetes, an injury or pancreatic surgery destroys the pancreas to the point that it can no longer produce insulin.
Type I diabetes has a different demographic than Type II. Children as young as 2 or as old as 22 can be diagnosed with Type I diabetes - hence the alternate name for Type I diabetes: juvenile diabetes. However, older people can certainly develop Type I diabetes, especially if there is injury to the pancreas.
Type II diabetes may have some hereditary factors, too, but not to the clear-cut degree that Type I does. In Type II, the body becomes resistant to the insulin that the pancreas is still producing. Or, Type II diabetics have a functioning pancreas but the organ does not produce enough insulin. Older individuals and those who are overweight are considered more at risk for developing Type II diabetes than those with a healthy body weight and lifestyle.
What Triggers It?
An auto-immune disorder might trigger Type I diabetes, as the body's immune system can inexplicably attack the pancreas and destroy its cells. There might also be some other way that the pancreas gets damaged, which is not age specific.
Type II diabetes may be triggered by unhealthy, sugar-rich diets and a sedentary lifestyle. The pancreas may simply become exhausted trying to keep the blood sugar down in response to the constant influx of sugar from the diet.
Other possibilities for triggers include high blood pressure and stress. While it's not directly proven as a causal factor, individuals with high blood pressure are statistically more likely to develop diabetes than those with normal blood pressure.
Stress as a causal factor has a similarly unproven status, but it is often thought by medical professionals that prolonged, unrelieved stress increases the risk of diabetes. Sometimes the stress is caused by trauma or emotional disturbance, somehow making the individual susceptible to developing diabetes.