Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine and passes out of the body. Hence, even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose, the body loses its main source of energy. In a healthy body, a “perfect balance” between food intake and insulin is maintained by the pancreas. Beta cells in the pancreas make a hormone called insulin. Insulin allows the body to use energy from food. When we eat, the pancreas releases the exact amount of insulin which is needed to turn the glucose into energy. If we eat a lot, the pancreas releases a lot of insulin. If we eat just a little, the pancreas releases just a little insulin.
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreatic cells were destroyed and therefore unable to produce insulin. This eventually leads to a severe lack of insulin. This happens because the body attacks and destroys its own cells in the pancreas which is also known as an autoimmune reaction.
The reason of having type 1 diabetes is not known, but there are a few hypotheses proposed. These include:
- Infection caused by a specific virus or bacteria
- Exposure to food-borne chemical toxins
- Exposure to cow’s milk as a very young infant, where, unidentified component triggers the autoimmune reaction
- However, these are only hypotheses and are not proven causes.
In this type of diabetes, the receptors on cells fails to respond to insulin in the way that they supposed to – this is known as insulin resistance. Due to this, the body may produce more insulin and this overproduction leads to the exhaustion of the insulin-manufacturing cells in the pancreas. There is just not enough insulin available and even the insulin that is available may not work properly.
The following risk factors increase the chances of someone developing Type 2 diabetes:
- Increasing age
- Physical inactivity
Rarer causes of diabetes include:
- Certain medications
- Pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
- Any illness or disease that damages the pancreas and affects its ability to produce insulin, such as pancreatitis