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Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects

Question About Type 1 Diabetes

07/21/2010

Question:

My father got Juvenile diabetes when he was 17. He is now 54 and doing pretty well. Nobody on my mom and husband`s side has diabetes. I am 30 and do not have diabetes. I am thinking of starting a family soon and somehow extremely worried about my kids having this disease. I heard it skips a generation. On my father`s side - his sister`s grandson got it when he was 6. So these are the only 2 cases of diabetes in the family. My mom and husband none, me-none, my brother who is 25 also does not have it. Please give me some info on what are the chances of my child getting it? Also do you have a percentage or track of kids who have diabetes have inherited from grandparents or other close relatives? What are those chances etc? Thanks a lot for your help in advance.

Answer:

Type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes) usually affects children and young adults. It is cause by an autoimmune response which leads to the destruction of the cells that produce insulin, a hormone which helps to breakdown sugars. People who have type 1 diabetes do not make any (or very little) insulin and must replace it by having insulin shots.

While type 1 diabetes does run in families, what is inherited is a predisposition or susceptibility to type 1 diabetes. People with an inherited predisposition to type 1 diabetes must be exposed to some environmental trigger for the disease to develop. Researchers and health care professionals do not know exactly what triggers developing the disease, but they think that viruses or other autoimmune responses are responsible. There are genes that code for autoimmune responses (major histocompatibity complex genes). Depending on which genes you and your family share with one another, the susceptibility to develop type 1 diabetes if the person is exposed to an environmental trigger, may determine your chances of developing the disease.

As your father is your only close relative with type 1 diabetes, the chance that you might develop the disease is about 1 in 25. Your child’s chances would be less.

As you are considering having children, this would be an excellent time to discuss your risk for diabetes with a genetic counselor or geneticist. They would be able to answer questions in much greater detail. I would recommend you talk to your doctor about a referral to a genetics center near you or you can locate one at the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ Resource Center website below. Also, the American Diabetes Association has an excellent section on the genetics of diabetes at their website.

Related Resources:

American Diabetes Association
National Society of Genetic Cousnelors Resource Center

For more information:

Go to the Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University