Helping children grow, Better

Helping children grow, Better
Doctor, why did my child get diabetes?

Posted on - 07-12-2018

The foremost question of parent asks is, " why....."


The diagnosis of childhood diabetes is a big shock to the family. Along with the huge mountain of sadness comes a big responsibility, and with it comes a question ”Doctor, why did it happen to my child”??........

While  there are several proposed theories about the reasons for Childhood DIabtes, a single best answer could be “We don't exactly know”. Scientific research is progressing rapidly to know the reasons and we may understand them better in the future.

" Is it genetic?No one in our family has it...."

Most children will develop diabetes do not have a family member with similar disease but it is important to note that the risk of Type 1 diabetes increases if you have a family member with Type 1 diabetes. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, if an immediate relative (parent, brother, sister, son or daughter) has type 1 diabetes, your risk of developing type 1 diabetes is about 10 to 20 times the risk of the general population (normally a 1% risk). If one child in a family has type 1 diabetes, their siblings have about a 1 in 10 risk of developing it by age 50. Interestingly, a child from a father with type 1 diabetes has about a 10% chance of developing it, while a child with a mother with type 1 diabetes has about a 4% risk of developing it if the mother was 25 or younger at birth, and a 1% risk of developing it if the mother was older than 25 at birth (consistent with the general population risk).

"Is there an environmental cause?"

Only genetics cannot explain all cases of childhood diabetes .One or more environmental triggers is required to cause disease . This has been proved in studies with identical twins. If one of the twins has type 1 diabetes , then the other twin is affected with diabetes in only half the cases. So even if both of them have the same genes only half of them  share  the disease. If the cause was purely genetic both the twins should always have type 1 diabetes if one of them has it. Also, research from the UK shows that people who migrate from a country where type 1 diabetes is rare to a country where it is more common have an increased ichance of getting the disease, implying that genetics alone does not tell the whole story .This proves that environment plays a very important role in causing type one diabetes.

One possible cause is a viral infection. Many viruses can cause infections in children and several of them maybe  involved in causing diabetes. Cox Sackie B virus has emerged as a major candidate that could be responsible. The child's body develops antibodies to fight the viral infection.But in children predisposed to developing Diabetes,  after killing the virus the body continues its aggressive activity and may mistakenly kill beta cells of the pancreas because some parts of the body of the beta-cell look like the virus body-shell. 

Other possible environmental triggers under research could be pesticides, food preservatives , plastics, synthetic polymers etc. The role of these substances is postulated and is being actively researched. We may get conclusive evidence in the future regarding some agents responsible for causing diabetes.

Does over-eating or eating too much sugar cause childhood diabetes??

Did the candy and the ice-cream cause it? 

Excessive intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates , overeating and obesity is a recognised risk factor  for adult onset diabetes which is also known as Type 2 diabetes. Similar conclusion cannot be drawn for childhood diabetes. Both overweight and thin children can get childhood  diabetes . Healthy eating practices prevent obesity and reduce the risks of developing adult onset diabetes (Type 2 diabetes) once the child grows up.

So there is no single answer on why a child gets diabetes. There is usually nothing wrong that parents or the child have done that has caused this sad problem, and unfortunately there seems to be nothing much anyone can practically do to prevent Type 1 Diabetes.