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From Newfoundland, Canada:

We have two children 3 (almost 4) and our oldest daughter is 6 1/2. They have been diagnosed since they were 2 and 3 years of age. We have no family history of diabetes on either side of the family, even generations back.

Could you please explain what happened for our two children to get it? The odds of this happening is very high.


There is indeed a genetic component to Type 1 Diabetes; but as studies on identical twins first showed there has also to be an environmental factor which triggers the autoimmune process. The genetic part seems to lie in the way certain proteins on the surface of the lymphocyte are configured which makes them in turn vulnerable to confuse 'self' with 'non-self.' This is a very specific failure of recognition which in the case of Type 1 Diabetes ends with the destruction of the beta cells in the islets and sometimes too with damage to other endocrine cells such as the thyroid.

In the case of your family the children must have inherited a 'high risk' factor from you or their father or from both of you. This may have intensified the genetic risk or the environmental factors may have been different in their generation. What these factors are is not yet known though for a time early exposure to cow's milk was a favoured theme. It is not impossible too that either you or their father does indeed have Type 1 Diabetes which very occasionally can first present in the 40's.


Original posting 25 Jan 97


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