Causes of type 1 diabetes

If you have just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes you are probably wondering, 'why me?'

It is important to know it is not your fault that you have type 1 diabetes – it is not caused by poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, it isn’t caused by anything that you did or didn’t do, and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

Because the precise causes of type 1 diabetes are not known and there is a much greater awareness of type 2 diabetes, many myths about type 1 diabetes are in circulation. There has been a lot of research into what causes type 1 diabetes, but so far there are no clear answers.

Type 1 is an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune condition is when your immune system, which normally keeps your body safe against disease, attacks itself instead. Other examples of autoimmune conditions include multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys your insulin-producing beta cells.

Certain genes put people at a greater risk for developing type 1 diabetes, but are not the only factors involved. While there are no proven environmental triggers, researchers are looking for possible culprits, such as viral infections and particular molecules within our environment and foods.

Is type 1 diabetes hereditary?

We are also unsure about whether type 1 diabetes is hereditary or not. While 90 per cent of people who develop type 1 diabetes have no relative with the condition, genetic factors can pre-dispose people to developing type 1 diabetes.

Certain gene markers are associated with type 1 diabetes risk. A child born with these will have the same risk of developing type 1 diabetes as a child with siblings with type 1 diabetes. However, having the marker alone is not enough to cause someone to develop type 1 diabetes – it is thought that an additional trigger causes type 1 diabetes to develop.