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October 7, 2002

Honeymoon

Question from St. Paul, Minnesota, USA:

My 10 year old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three weeks ago, so I am scrambling to learn all I can about the disease. He has just entered his honeymoon period. As I understand it, the remaining 10% or so of his beta cells have been in "shock" from the load trying to keep up the levels and have not been producing insulin. With the help of the insulin shots they have now "recovered" and started producing insulin again. What causes this to end? Are they eventually destroyed by his immune system? Were they still being attacked while they were not producing insulin?

Answer:

We don’t know very much about the honeymoon period. It does not have to happen at all, especially in the very youngest patients (i.e., preschoolers). Good glucose control seems to help start and sustain the honeymoon period anecdotally. We do not know exactly what ends the honeymoon phase but the autoimmune attack likely continues to destroy any remaining beta cells over subsequent weeks and months. While we can turn off this autoimmune attack in some animal models with strong immunosuppressant drugs, this is still too risky for human use except in experimental situations. Future research is looking to get safer immunosuppression or figure out some other way to stop this autoimmune attack.

SB

[Editor’s comment: This site has probably all the information you’ll ever need. Take time looking through it and spend some time in the Chat Rooms to talk to parents and kids who have “been there”.

SS]