Causes of Diabetes

Anyone can get diabetes, but there are certain risk factors that make you more likely to develop either type 1 diabetes, which typically starts in childhood; or type 2, which usually starts later in life.

Risk factors for type 1:

Family history

If you have a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes you have an elevated risk of getting it also.

Diseases of the pancreas

These can hamper the pancreas’ ability to make insulin, which can cause type 1 diabetes.

Infection or illness

Some rare types of infections or illnesses can damage your pancreas and affect its ability to make insulin.

Risk factors for type 2:

Being obese or overweight

Being overweight or having a high BMI (Body Mass Index) increases your risk. 

Race/ethnic background

Your risk is greater if you have a background that’s African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian and are over 25.

High blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure that measures over 140/90, you’re at increased risk of having diabetes.

Lack of physical activity

Exercise helps keep your weight under control, makes your body use up more glucose and makes cells more sensitive to insulin.

Family history

If a parent or sibling had diabetes you have a greater chance of getting it too.

History of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes starts during pregnancy and goes away after delivery, but it raises your risk of later developing type 2 diabetes. You’re also at greater risk if you've delivered a baby weighing more than 10 pounds.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

This condition is common among women and is characterised by having irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, and obesity.

If you have several risk factors for diabetes, it’s important to be tested. If you have the disease, the sooner you’re diagnosed and can begin treatment, the better.