Diabetes Home > Causes of Diabetes

With type 1 diabetes, the causes involve the destruction of the pancreas' ability to produce insulin. Scientists have identified risk factors that increase the chances of developing type 2 diabetes; however, the specific causes of this type of diabetes are unknown. In pregnant women, the condition is linked to hormonal changes and weight gain associated with pregnancy.

What Causes Diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both. Diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death, but people with diabetes can take steps to control the disease and lower the risk of complications.
The three types of diabetes are:

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas by a person's own immune system. These beta cells of the pancreas are the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin that regulates blood glucose.
A combination of genetic and environmental factors put people at increased risk for type 1 diabetes. Researchers are working to identify these factors and stop the autoimmune process that destroys the pancreas. Currently, there is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it most often occurs in children and young adults. This form has an acute onset, with children and adolescents usually able to pinpoint when their diabetes symptoms began.
Since the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, people with type 1 diabetes require daily injections of insulin for life. Children with this condition are at risk for long-term complications, including damage to the:
Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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