The causes of diabetes mellitus are related to a problem with insulin production or secretion. Diabetes mellitus is a condition that results when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to keep up with the level of sugar in the blood. There are two major groups for classification of diabetes mellitus, type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 diabetes make up approximately 10% of diabetes cases in North America and Europe. No preventative measures are known to ward off this condition. Most type 1 diabetics are in general good health before being diagnosed and this disease can strike early in life earning it the alternative name "juvenile diabetes".
In this type of diabetes the cells that produce insulin are destroyed. "Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by loss of the insulin-producing beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas leading to insulin deficiency".(1) This may be the result of an auto-immune disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells for unknown reasons.
Though the causes of type 1 diabetes may be related to a poorly understood autoimmune disorders, certain triggers have been proposed, which include a viral or bacterial infection or exposure to a toxin.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus makes up the majority of diabetes cases. Unlike type 1 diabetes, this form can often times be prevented with proper diet and exercise measures as there is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people who are overweight and inactive.
Type 2 diabetes may result when the cells that are normally receptive of insulin fail to respond to it, this occurrence is commonly referred to as insulin resistance. As a result, the pancreas produces more and more insulin putting too much demand on the insulin-producing cells.
A common misconception is that type 2 diabetes is caused by eating too many sweet treats or refined carbohydrates. These foods in and of themselves do not cause diabetes, however, over-consumption of these foods can lead to obesity which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes mellitus that only occurs in women who are pregnant and most commonly develops in the last trimester of the pregnancy. The woman may not have had diabetes prior to becoming pregnant and the condition may alleviate after the pregnancy is over.
Other more rare causes of diabetes mellitus include a complication from certain medications or an illness or disorder that causes damage to the pancreas such as pancreatitis.
The symptoms of type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes are similar in many ways; however, the causes of diabetes mellitus vary quite a bit from one form to the next. Knowing the signs of diabetes, causes and treatments can lead to more comprehensive management of this disease.
(1) Wikipedia (2010). Diabetes mellitus. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus