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My son was diagnosed as diabetic last year at the age of 7 years. Unfortunately, I have been going through a very messy divorce for the last 3 years and this has been felt by my son.

Is there an association between emotional stress and the outbreak of diabetes. I'm an immunologist and am only aware of work about autoimmunity and HLA factors involved in the disease. My son's diabetologist says there is no association between the onset of diabetes and stress, but I want to make sure.


Although we do not know all the factors that cause diabetes, we do know that the pancreas gradually fails until it can no longer make enough insulin to keep the blood sugar normal. It is not uncommon for diabetes to be diagnosed soon after an acute "stress" such as an illness or injury. This is because the pancreas must make extra insulin to keep the blood sugar normal during such times of "stress." If the pancreas is already making as much insulin as possible (but less than it should be able to make), it will not be able to make extra insulin to keep the blood sugar normal. Thus the "stress" did not actually cause the diabetes, but caused the blood sugar to become abnormal more abruptly.

Acute emotional stress can also increase the need for extra insulin, but as far as I know has not been identified as actually causing diabetes. It is unlikely that chronic "stress" over a 3 year period contributed to developing diabetes.


Original posting 28 Oct 96


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
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