Diabetes is one of the most common chronic medical conditions in America. Therefore, it can be caused by a number of factors. Understanding the causes of diabetes and any associated risks is important to preventing diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body processes blood sugar, also known as glucose. As a vital energy source, glucose helps fuel the cells in the muscles, tissues and the brain. For people with unmanaged diabetes, various complications can arise, such as kidney damage, heart disease, nerve damage and vision problems. Add to the fact that diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States, there are various types and causes of diabetes.
The causes of diabetes can vary depending on the specific type of diabetes an individual has. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Alternatively, type 2 diabetes is mainly associated with insulin resistance, in which cells in the muscles, fat and liver don't respond properly to insulin.
Read on to learn about the potential causes of diabetes, including genetics, diet and lifestyle factors.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body's inability to produce enough insulin due to the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The exact cause of this destruction remains unclear, but there are several potential factors that might contribute to it:
- Genetics: A person's genetic makeup can increase their risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Certain genes are known to play a role in the development of this chronic disease.
- Viral infection: Some viruses, such as enteroviruses and coxsackieviruses, are believed to trigger an autoimmune response that leads to the destruction of beta cells.
- Researchers continue to study the complex links between genetic, environmental and immunological factors that contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes. Still, there’s no clear understanding of the exact cause.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a complex condition influenced by various factors. Some of the most common causes include:
- Genetics: A family history of diabetes increases the risk, as certain genes can predispose an individual to developing type 2 diabetes.
- *Weight: *Overweight and obesity are potential risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes, as excess body weight can lead to insulin resistance.
- Lifestyle factors: A sedentary lifestyle, combined with a poor diet, can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity and maintaining a balanced diet can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
- Medical history: If you have a history of prediabetes or gestational diabetes, you may have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Age: People older than 45 years may be at a higher risk than younger people for developing type 2 diabetes.
In addition to the factors listed above, other contributors such as race and ethnicity can also play a role in the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Causes of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, typically diagnosed for the first time in the middle stage of pregnancy. Several factors contribute to the development of gestational diabetes, including:
- Family history: A family history of diabetes may predispose an individual to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of gestational diabetes as it can lead to insulin resistance.
- Lifestyle factors: An unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity can contribute to insulin resistance and increase the likelihood of gestational diabetes.
- Previous delivery of an overweight baby: Women who have previously given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes in subsequent pregnancies.
- Age: Women older than 25 years are at a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes compared to younger women.
Managing gestational diabetes through a balanced diet and exercise may help reduce the risks for both mother and baby. Maintaining a healthy body weight may also help lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Other Potential Causes of Diabetes
Certain medications can also trigger diabetes in some individuals. Some examples of medications that may cause diabetes include:
- Corticosteroids: used to treat inflammation and autoimmune disorders
- Antipsychotic medications: used to manage mental health conditions like schizophrenia
- Diuretics: used to treat high blood pressure by removing excess water and salt from the body
You should discuss any concerns regarding medications and their potential impact on your risk of developing diabetes with your healthcare provider. They can provide guidance on how to manage the risk and potentially adjust your medications if necessary.