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February 22, 2004


Question from Santiago, Chile:

My friend is 20 years old. He had chicken pox three months ago. Two months later he had symptoms of diabetes, that is weight loss, thirst, and, now, diabetic ketoacidosis. Is there a relationship between chicken pox and type 1 diabetes?


There is no evidence that chickenpox can actually be the cause of any form of diabetes. In your friends case, judging from the age at onset, I think that he has LADA or Late Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults. The problem is that a disorder of the immune system, very slowly and over a period of years, destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. In the late pre clinical phase, however, any stress, including that of an intercurrent infection, can tip the balance into insulin dependance. To be more certain of the diagnosis he should talk to his doctor about getting a confirmatory antibody test.