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Our 3 year old son was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and we are monitoring him and giving him injections. We have read that some suspected environmental and viral triggers linked to getting Type 1 diabetes have been identified. Would you please list the suspected environmental and viral triggers?

Also, we are surprised (probably our ignorance) that no questionnaire or other data gathering was asked of us. Wouldn't that information be of some use in the search to identify triggers or causes?

Finally, my son was diagnosed [two months ago] (he was drinking excessively and had blood sugar in the 700s when diagnosed). He has been on insulin since being diagnosed. What is the likely time frame that he had the disease prior to diagnosis?


You are absolutely correct that a number of environmental factors have been proposed as triggers for the start of the process that leads eventually to diabetes - following a prolonged attack by the immune system on the beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. Although the following list is of the commoner suspected triggers, none have been shown to be unequivocally important and research continues on all of them and more:

  • Viral infections, especially viruses such as Coxsackie
  • Cow's milk proteins
  • Nitrates, e.g., in the water supply
  • Zinc deficiency

You weren't asked to complete a questionnaire because your hospital was not involved in any organised study of trigger factors. This is a complex area and will not be resolved by retrospective questioning but rather painstaking prospective study with collection of blood samples, etc., designed to address specific hypotheses.

The process leading towards diabetes has been known to last many years and symptoms only appear at the end when 10-20% of the islet cells are left producing insulin.


Original posting 30 Oct 97


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:54
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