Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are believed to be caused by different triggers and factors.
Type 1 Diabetes: An Autoimmune Disease?
Type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune disease — the immune system attacks a healthy part of the body. Researchers believe that a person who develops this disease may have been exposed at some time by an “environmental trigger” such as a virus or food protein. In type 1 diabetes, beta cells are attacked and insulin is not produced. When this happens the blood glucose level begins to build up and has no way to enter the cell.
The excess of blood glucose is the direct cause of the classic diabetes symptoms. The kidneys respond by trying to eliminate the excess glucose, eliminating water along with the sugar. This results in frequent and excessive urination and in turn causes intense thirst. Since the cells are not receiving fuel, they trigger the hunger sensation. Because the cells are unable to use the glucose, they pull fuel from other sources — fat stores and muscle — and the diabetic person begins to lose weight.
Role of Heredity in Type 1 Diabetes
Diabetes does run in families. If you have a family history of diabetes, your health professional should be aware of it. Of course, diabetes can develop without any family history of the disease, and while a family history puts you at risk, it does not automatically follow that you will develop diabetes.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Adult onset, or type 2, diabetes occurs when the body still produces insulin. However, the body either produces insufficient insulin, or the insulin does not function properly. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes: ninety percent of diabetes is of type 2. Obesity appears to be one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
In some cases, diabetes arises due to the cells’ inability to recognize the helper molecule insulin. Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes are syndromes that can be strongly triggered by a person’s weight, level of exercise and lifestyle.
A person with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes produces enough insulin, but just can’t use it effectively.
The pancreas of those with type 2 diabetes eventually decreases insulin production and the person will have the same symptoms and risks as those with type 1 diabetes. Without proper, early diagnosis, intervention, and compliance with physician’s instructions, type 2 diabetics can develop serious complications.
Current Diabetes Research
There are many research foundations that are seeking cures to these high blood sugar diseases. New drugs are being developed for type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes research and clinical trials are increasing both our medical knowledge of diabetes and the number of treatment options available to diabetics. Diabetes research has also contributed to an understanding of ways to reduce diabetic complications. Blood sugar monitoring devices that can be worn on the wrist have been developed, and the possibility of using inhaled insulin instead of insulin injections is being studied.
One of the most exiting developments in diabetes research has been the ability to receive insulin-producing cells from the pancreas of donors and attempt to transplant them into the human body of a patient with diabetes. Pancreatic islet transplant techniques are currently being perfected as a hope for a novel treatment for type 1 diabetes. If proven effective in long-term clinical trials, such research may hold the key to a cure for diabetes.