Recently, I came to know that a boy in my town who is 6 years old is diabetic and many people were shocked from this news.


Short Answer

Type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children; type 2 diabetes is more common overall and is much less likely to be diagnosed in children, though possible.

Longer Answer

Type 1 diabetes is caused by damage to the pancreas and depends on environmental and genetic causes, most often leading to autoimmune loss of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes occurs because insulin levels themselves are low. It commonly begins in childhood, and is also sometimes referred to as "juvenile diabetes" although it lasts life-long. Type 1 diabetics often take insulin to replace the insulin they are not producing.

Type 2 diabetes, by contrast, is caused by reduced insulin sensitivity and develops over time (lack of insulin can also eventually occur). Obesity and other lifestyle factors are strong influences on the development of type 2 diabetes, though genetics can also play a role. Type 2 diabetes is most often diagnosed in adults (and is also referred to as adult-onset diabetes, though it is also possible to occur in children), increases with age, and is overall more prevalent than type 1 diabetes, so this is likely where your community's surprise comes from.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your overall answer is correct, but I'd add that type 2 diabetes runs in families, while type 1 does not. There are MHC associations with type 1 because it is autoimmune in origin, but clinically, we don't think of type 1 diabetes as a genetic disease. $\endgroup$ – De Novo Aug 15 '18 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ I focused on the first phrase (type 1 diabetes is caused by genetic factors), but on looking again, you should probably correct the rest of the sentence. The specific cause of type 1 diabetes is usually known. It is autoimmune destruction of islet cells. I'd have to look it up again to be sure, but I believe anti islet cell antibodies are identified in almost all cases. $\endgroup$ – De Novo Aug 15 '18 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ If you are going to edit, I recommend directly answering the question instead of posting information for the asker to infer from. $\endgroup$ – Cell Aug 15 '18 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ @DeNovo My understanding is that type 1 diabetes has quite a high heritability, and concurrence in families is rare only because the disease itself is rare, i.e., the heritable factors are a risk rather than a clear cause. I can certainly try to reference better if this is unclear or controversial, I wasn't realizing that it was. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 '18 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Cell If you are referring to my edit of the question title, I did so due to the body of the question which in my experience is usually a better marker for what new question-askers are going for here at biology.SE. I've added a more clear direct answer, however. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 '18 at 17:10

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