Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
How do you explain to your child why and how they got Type 1 diabetes? It is one of the most difficult conversations you’ll have. And it will be one that comes up again and again.
Why people contract Type 1 diabetes is still a mystery. Scientists agree that it is partly due to some genetic pre-disposition, but also likely the result of some infection or illness that kicked the body’s immune system into action.
How Type 1 diabetes is caused, is much more well known. At a simple level (and this is how we explained it to our son), the story goes like this:
Explaining Type 1 Diabetes to a Child
Sometimes germs and infections can enter your body. In order for you to get healthy again, inside your body is a force of cells called antibodies. These antibodies find the germs and infections and kick them out of the body. Think of them as your own little army that is always traveling around your body beating up the bad guys.
In a person with Type 1 diabetes, this army has unfortunately made a terrible mistake. At some point, they found and attacked a group of cells in the body called the ‘beta cells’ that live in your pancreas. This army of antibodies, for some reason, thought that these cells were the bad guys and destroyed them. Why? No one really knows.
The terrible part is that these ‘beta cells’ are what our bodies use to create insulin. And now that the antibodies have destroyed these cells, people with Type 1 diabetes are no longer able to create their own insulin and so have to bring insulin into their bodies (through shots) on their own.
There is a lot of on-going research that is helping the scientific community really start to understand the details behind the “how” and even the “why” of diabetes. It is this knowledge that will hopefully bring us closer to a cure.
Find out more about the most recent research at the Diabetes Watch Blog