Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

What is the Cause of Type 1 Diabetes?

What causes type 1 diabetes (T1D)? Researchers do not know the exact causes of T1D, but they do know some onset factors and triggers associated with the condition. Despite not having full clarity on T1D’s causes, there is a wealth of research on the condition, and some conclusions can be drawn.

T1D Onset Factors and Triggers

Hereditary Considerations

There is often a family history of T1D, however the majority of diagnoses occur in people who have no family members with the disease. Nonetheless, having a family history of T1D puts people at higher risk of developing the disease. Gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are not indicators of a familial disposition for T1D.

Viral Infections

Researchers believe there can be triggers, such as viral infections, that may be associated with the onset of the disease. For this reason, developing a viral vaccine may be one way to prevent T1D. 

Environmental Factors

T1D diagnoses are on the rise, likely due to some changes in our environment, perhaps through certain viral infections or other factors. Early exposures to those factors after birth might be linked to the development of T1D.

What Does Not Cause T1D?


Diet does not cause T1D, and there are no dietary changes you can make to prevent its onset. Dietary factors may be involved in development of T2D.


Similarly, lifestyle, activity level, socioeconomic standing or habits do not play into the likelihood of a T1D diagnosis. A sedentary routine, among other factors, may lead to T2D.

Genetics, Ethnicity, Age, and the Likeliness of Developing T1D

Genetics and T1D

The presence of certain genes appears in many T1D cases. If someone in your family has had T1D, you are at a higher risk.

Ethnicity and T1D

T1D does not discriminate. People of all different ethnic backgrounds have T1D, though the incidence generally increases in populations north of the equator.

Age and T1D

While people can experience the onset of T1D at any age, many are diagnosed in early elementary school or as preteens. Hormonal changes, like those associated with growth spurts, may have an impact on the presentation and management of T1D.

Learn more about who is at risk for developing T1D.

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