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Causes of diabetes

The raised glucose levels that characterise diabetes are caused by a shortage of insulin, or by the body failing to respond to insulin normally. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas, a small gland-like organ that sits behind the stomach. The role of insulin is to regulate the supply of glucose from the food that we eat to the cells of the body, where it provides energy. In diabetes a lack of insulin results in a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream, which is harmful if left untreated.

Type 1 diabetes

clinical staff discussionThe insulin shortage found in type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the cells of the pancreas that make insulin, known as beta cells. The resulting damage may mean that the body is unable to produce any insulin at all, or that it cannot produce enough insulin. It is not known what triggers the immune system to destroy pancreatic cells, although a number of possible causes have been suggested, such as viruses, or there may be genetic features to the condition – it is the case that you are more at risk of developing type 1 diabetes if a family member is also affected.

Type 2 diavbetes

Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of problems relating to insulin. The typical pattern is for the body to stop responding normally to insulin, a condition called insulin resistance, as well as there being a reduction in insulin production. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to being overweight, or to other signs of the metabolic syndrome, and is more common in older age groups. Although most people who develop type 2 diabetes are over the age of 40 years, the condition is becoming more common in younger adults and in children in the UK.

Some people are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes than others:

is caused by a combination of problems relating to insulin. The typical pattern is for the body to stop responding normally to insulin, a condition called insulin resistance, as well as there being a reduction in insulin production. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to being overweight, or to other signs of the metabolic syndrome, and is more common in older age groups. Although most people who develop type 2 diabetes are over the age of 40 years, the condition is becoming more common in younger adults and in children in the UK.Some people are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes than others:
  • People who are overweight or obese, or have an increased waistline
  • Older people; risk increases after the age of 40 years, although this threshold may be less important in certain black and ethnic minority communities
  • People who have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • People from South Asian, African and African-Caribbean communities
  • People with high blood pressure or those who have had a heart attack or stroke
  • People with impaired glucose tolerance, a condition where the amount of glucose in the blood is raised, although not at the level where diabetes is diagnosed
  • Women who have had diabetes diagnosed in pregnancy

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is the name for a type of diabetes that first appears in pregnancy. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy often lead to increased levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Usually, the body adapts to these changes, but some women do not produce enough insulin to manage the increase in glucose. These women may develop gestational diabetes.

In rare cases, diabetes may be caused by other health problems such as damage to the pancreas, liver disease, or by certain medications.

 

Features

Exercise and diabetes

Exercise and diabetes
Description:
Taking exercise on a regular basis has many potential benefits for people with diabetes.

Food choices

Food choices
Description:
Much of the dietary advice that is recommended for people with diabetes is similar to that for the rest of the population.