Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic metabolic condition characterized by elevated blood sugar (blood glucose) levels. Diabetes prevents the body from properly using the energy from the food ingested. Have you wondered what causes diabetes?
One of the most prevalent chronic illnesses in the world is Diabetes Mellitus. Around 422 million people globally have diabetes, the majority live in low- and middle-income countries, and 1.6 million deaths are directly due to diabetes last year, according to the WHO. In the last few decades, both the number of cases and the incidence of diabetes have been gradually growing. This brings us to the importance of the question “ What causes diabetes?”
Diabetes occurs due to one of the two different cases:
- The pancreas secretes inadequate or no insulin at all.
- The pancreas secretes insulin however the insulin doesn’t work as it’s supposed to. Usually happens when the cells don’t respond well to the action of Insulin. This condition is called Insulin Resistance.
Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pancreas and it helps the body use sugar for energy.
To understand what causes diabetes in detail, it is important to know the process called metabolism i.e. how the body uses food for energy.
Millions of cells make up the human body. In order to produce energy, cells require food in a very basic form. Most of the food is broken down into a simple sugar called glucose while eating or drinking. For everyday activities, glucose provides the energy our body needs. The blood vessels and blood are the pathways that carry sugar to the cells where it is either taken in / manufactured/ to the cells where it is used/where it is stored. Sugar itself is not able to go into the cells. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood, which acts as the helper, or the “key,” which enables sugar to be used as energy in the cells.
The blood sugar level is reduced as sugar exits the bloodstream and reaches the cells.
Sugar does not get into the body’s cell for use as energy without insulin, or the “key,”
This triggers an increase in sugar level. This condition is called “hyperglycemia” ( high blood sugar ).
Causes of diabetes mellitus:
What causes diabetes mellitus? The causes of diabetes mellitus differ based on the genetic profile, family background, race, fitness and environmental conditions. Therefore, the question ‘what causes diabetes?’ gives different answers according to the individual, and also according to the type of diabetes that the individual is diagnosed with i.e. type 1 diabetes has different causes when compared to type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes causes :
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. One of the major type 1 diabetes causes is the damage of pancreatic insulin-producing cells (beta cells.. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas secretes inadequate or no insulin at all, therefore sugar couldn’t be used as energy in the cells. The main cause for this is the immune system targets and kills the pancreatic cells where insulin is produced.
The exact causes of type 1 diabetes are unknown. However, since it’s an autoimmune disease i.e. the body is attacking itself, there may be a few triggers involved. These triggers may also be the causes of type 1 diabetes:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors
- Viral or bacterial infection
- Chemical toxins
Type 2 diabetes causes:
Type 2 Diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes is a chronic disorder that prohibits insulin from being processed by the body the way it should. This is a case of insulin resistance. What causes type 2 diabetes?
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Genetic factors
- Metabolic syndrome
These are non-exhaustive indicators of what causes diabetes.
- What causes gestational diabetes mellitus:
Gestational Diabetes is diagnosed during the pregnancy (gestation) period. High blood sugar is caused by the Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta. The exact answer to what causes gestational diabetes mellitus is unknown. However, there are few causes that increase the chances of getting gestational diabetes:
- Family history
- Ethnicity: Women who are from certain ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be affected by gestational diabetes
- Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome can cause gestational diabetes mellitus
- Gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- Age: 25 or over is considered as one of the risk factors to what causes gestational diabetes mellitus.
What else causes diabetes?
- Getting diagnosed with Pancreatitis or pancreatectomy increases the risk of diabetes.
- Intake of steroids may increase the risk of diabetes.
- Cushing’s syndrome leads to an increase in the amount of cortisol hormone produced, this increases the blood sugar level. Hence, patients diagnosed with this condition are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
- Patients diagnosed with Glucagonoma have a higher risk of getting diabetes because of the unbalance between insulin and glucagon production.
- Damage or removal of the pancreas
- Intake of drugs like niacin, psychiatric drugs, anti-seizure drugs, specific types of diuretics and drugs used to treat HIV leads to a higher risk of getting diabetes.
- A condition called Cystic fibrosis causes the production of thick mucus, which causes scarring in the pancreas. Hence, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, what causes diabetes.
- Patients diagnosed with Hemochromatosis have high levels of iron stored. This build-up of iron can cause damage to the pancreas.
As seen above, there are many answers to the question “What causes diabetes?“. It is important for us to take measures to prevent this. It is vital to make necessary changes in our lifestyle to make sure diabetes risk is very low.
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