Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In most forms of type 1 diabetes, the body mistakenly thinks the cells that make insulin in the pancreas are germs. So the body destroys those cells. This happens for unknown reasons. The result is that the pancreas eventually doesn't produce any insulin.
Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children and in young adults (hence the name juvenile diabetes). But people of any age can get it. Sometimes people develop type 1 diabetes after age 40, but it usually comes on much earlier.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
While doctors aren't sure exactly why the immune system malfunctions, they believe heredity and environmental factors both play roles. In most cases, to develop type 1 diabetes, you need to inherit risk factors from both parents
Scientists believe there are a number of environmental triggers for type 1 diabetes, including:
Cold weather. Type 1 diabetes develops more often in winter months. It's also more common in areas where the climate is colder.
Viruses. Some researchers believe viruses may bring on type 1 diabetes in certain people.
Written by award-winning health writer Bobbie Hasselbring
Reviewed by Beth Seltzer, MD
Last updated June 2008