What causes gestational diabetes?
Scientists believe gestational diabetes
, a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, is caused by the hormonal changes of pregnancy along with genetic and lifestyle factors.Insulin resistance Hormones
produced by the placenta
contribute to insulin resistance, which occurs in all women during late pregnancy. Most pregnant women can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but some cannot. Gestational diabetes occurs when the pancreas can’t make enough insulin.As with type 2 diabetes, extra weight is linked to gestational diabetes. Women who are overweight or obese may already have insulin resistance when they become pregnant. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may also be a factor.Hormonal changes, extra weight, and family history can contribute to gestational diabetes.Genes and family historyHaving a family history of diabetes makes it more likely that a woman will develop gestational diabetes, which suggests that genes play a role. Genes may also explain why the disorder occurs more often in African Americans, American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics/Latinas.
What else can cause diabetes? Genetic mutations
, other diseases, damage to the pancreas, and certain medicines may also cause diabetes.Genetic mutations
- Monogenic diabetes is caused by mutations, or changes, in a single gene. These changes are usually passed through families, but sometimes the gene mutation happens on its own. Most of these gene mutations cause diabetes by making the pancreas less able to make insulin. The most common types of monogenic diabetes are neonatal diabetes and maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). Neonatal diabetes occurs in the first 6 months of life. Doctors usually diagnose MODY during adolescence or early adulthood, but sometimes the disease is not diagnosed until later in life.
- Cystic fibrosis produces thick mucus that causes scarring in the pancreas. This scarring can prevent the pancreas from making enough insulin.
- Hemochromatosis causes the body to store too much iron. If the disease is not treated, iron can build up in and damage the pancreas and other organs.
Hormonal diseasesSome hormonal diseases cause the body to produce too much of certain hormones, which sometimes cause insulin resistance and diabetes.
Damage to or removal of the pancreas Pancreatitis
, pancreatic cancer, and trauma can all harm the beta cells or make them less able to produce insulin, resulting in diabetes. If the damaged pancreas is removed, diabetes will occur due to the loss of the beta cells.MedicinesSometimes certain medicines can harm beta cells or disrupt the way insulin works. These include
- niacin, a type of vitamin B3
- certain types of diuretics, also called water pills
- anti-seizure drugs
- psychiatric drugs
- drugs to treat human immunodeficiency virus ( HIV )
- pentamidine, a drug used to treat a type of pneumonia
- glucocorticoids—medicines used to treat inflammatory illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis , asthma , lupus , and ulcerative colitis
- anti-rejection medicines, used to help stop the body from rejecting a transplanted organ
Statins, which are medicines to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, can slightly increase the chance that you’ll develop diabetes. However, statins help protect you from heart disease and stroke. For this reason, the strong benefits of taking statins outweigh the small chance that you could develop diabetes.If you take any of these medicines and are concerned about their side effects, talk with your doctor.