Boils and Carbuncles and Diabetes, Oh My!

By: George Eisenbarth

When I was 3, I had small boils on the webs of my left forefinger and thumb. Shortly thereafter I suffered a severe carbuncle on my bottom and could not sleep because the blankets hurt so much. For the next eight years I had boils, carbuncles and styes almost continuously. At one point I had five boils on one leg. These boils went untreated.

In 1950, at age 11, I went into a coma and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I believe the poison of those untreated boils finally did in my pancreas. Is this theory feasible?

Jan Hughey

It is pretty unlikely that these boils and carbuncles (skin infections) caused your diabetes. Boils, however, often follow high glucose levels and sometimes children have diabetes for several years before it is diagnosed.

Research in diabetic animal models indicates that some common infections (like the one that likely caused your boils) can actually prevent diabetes. In fact, when mice are raised in a germ-free environment, they are more likely to develop diabetes.

George Eisenbarth, MD, PhD
Executive Director, Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes



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