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September 22, 2003

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Borup, Minnesota, USA:

I know pancreatitis can cause diabetes, but can diabetes cause pancreatitis?


As you say, there are various forms of pancreatitis that can involve the islet cells and thus produce diabetes. However, although you might expect that the small blood vessel complications of diabetes that so often involve the retina and the kidney would also affect the pancreas itself, there are no reports of this in the literature. There is a link though through obesity which can lead to both diabetes and pancreatitis.

As the biomedical intricacies of these disorders come increasingly to light, there is some very recent evidence that some of the islet cells in the pancreas produce the appetite promoter ghrelin and there is a transcription factor in the islets which governs the distribution of new cells which, if reduced or absent, will lead to the loss of insulin producing cells and encourage the production of appetite stimulating cells. Complicated certainly and not at all fully understood, but it offers an academic explanation as to why a person might have type 2 diabetes, be overweight and have pancreatitis, albeit not the same pathology that gives rise to diabetes in Cystic Fibrosis, Hemochromatosis or Tropical Fibrocalculous diabetes. Finally, there is some evidence that treating type 2 diabetes with glyburide