Type 1 diabetes results from destruction of the insulin-secreting cells of the islets of Langerhans. This destruction is auto-immune in nature - i.e. it is brought about by the body's own natural defences, but directed against one of its own tissues. The liability to develop Type 1 diabetes is to some extent inherited, but
amongst identical twins (who have the same genetic complement), if one has Type 1 diabetes, only around 40% of their twins will have the disease.1 Thus, something in the environment must set the disease process in motion. There are a number of theories about what this trigger might be, including a belief that the trigger is a viral infection. Some people also believe that a traumatic episode can trigger off diabetes. However, none of these theories is proven. What is clear is that the metabolic changes in Type 1 diabetes essentially represent a deficiency of insulin, and can largely be treated by injection of insulin. Type 1 diabetes is not a very common disease; it is present in about 0.5% of the population in the United Kingdom, and rather less in warmer parts of the world. However, the incidence of Type 1 diabetes is increasing in some parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and particularly Scandinavia.
Was this article helpful?