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What Is the Connection between Diabetes and the Immune System?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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Diabetes is defined as the inability of insulin to regulate healthy blood sugar due to lifestyle or genetics, however, there are times when diabetes develops in response to a malfunction within the immune system. The immune system and diabetes are known to be connected in type 1 diabetes, as this type of diabetes is often an autoimmune disease. Sometimes, type 2 diabetes may result from a problem with the immune system, as a viral infection or bacteria might cause insulin insensitivity. It isn't uncommon for diabetes to cause a decrease in immune function, increasing the risk of becoming sick.

It has been shown that diabetes and the immune system are directly connected, and that a weak or malfunctioning immune system can result in diabetic symptoms in some individuals. Type 1 diabetes affects nearly five to ten percent of the population, and is often associated with an autoimmune disorder. When a healthy individual is invaded by foreign bacteria or a virus, the immune system will work on attacking that virus or bacteria and destroying it. With type 1 diabetes, the immune system will actually misdirect its signals to attack the bacteria and instead will attack the insulin beta cells in the body.

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When insulin beta cells are attacked by a faulty immune system, little or no insulin is produced to help regulate blood sugar levels and bring them back to normal range. Type 1 diabetes and the immune system come under scrutiny when studying the health of an individual suffering from low energy and fatigue. Although exercise and a proper diet are necessary for keeping an immune system strong, doctors agree that the sole treatment for type 1 diabetes and the immune system malfunction is daily insulin injections. If insulin therapy isn't administered to these patients every day to help control blood sugar levels, it is highly possible that a patient might fall into a diabetic coma.

Type 2 diabetes may also be the result of an autoimmune disorder, however, the majority of type 2 diabetes cases are often associated with unhealthy lifestyle factors. If blood sugar becomes uncontrollable, and insulin is always being secreted, this can have a direct effect on both diabetes and the immune system. Depressed immune function can often be caused by high levels of both blood sugar and insulin, especially if these levels are kept high for a long period of time. Plenty of physical activity is recommended for type 2 diabetics to help keep blood sugar under control as well as keeping the immune system strong.

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candyquilt
Post 3

I learned in class that when we're stressed, our body produces a lot of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol interferes with other hormones that help keep the immune system strong. I think that people who are always stressed are at risk of many different health problems, including diabetes.

burcinc
Post 2

I don't know if immune system problems cause type two diabetes, but I know that type two diabetes weakens the immune system.

I was diagnosed with type two diabetes a few years ago. Ever since, I've been getting sick more frequently. I used to rarely get sick before and now I'm constantly catching colds, having an allergic reaction or suffering from gastro-intestinal problems.

I also have less tolerance to environmental factors. I'm so sensitive to cold and heat now. If I walk outside in the summer, I feel like fainting and my blood pressure falls. Everything seems to have gone downhill since my diabetes diagnosis.

Does anyone else with diabetes feel this way?

fify
Post 1

Wasn't there a doctor recently who claimed that diabetes is a result of a viral infection?

I have no idea if this is proven or not because I never heard about it again, but I think it's very interesting and worth researching.

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