The growing incidence of diabetes all over the world is raising concerns within the medical community. Diabetes is caused by the absence or insufficiency of insulin produced by the pancreas. It can lead to complications such as cardiovascular diseases, loss of vision, and kidney damage.
Several factors can influence whether a person will get afflicted or not. One of them is a genetic predisposition to the disease. Because of this, many people are asking, “Will I get diabetes if my parents have it?” This article will provide answers to this question.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes – This type is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes. It usually appears in people who are under the age of 35, but the typical age would be from 10 to 16. The condition can develop very quickly.
A viral infection can trigger an immune response. One of the possible consequences of this is the destruction of pancreatic cells that secrete insulin. It can lead to the complete cessation of insulin production in the body. A person who has type 1 diabetes needs regular insulin injections. Without it, he or she can go into a coma and die.
Type 2 Diabetes – Also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, this condition usually develops in people aged 40 and above. In most cases, it is hidden and only detected when a medical examination is performed. The body’s insulin production is not sufficient. It is also possible that the body is not capable of using the insulin properly.
People who are overweight has a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the majority of cases, insulin injections are not necessary. Medicines (to help the pancreas produce insulin and lower blood glucose), diet, and exercise are usually enough to keep the blood sugar level in check.
The Role of Genetics in Having Diabetes
Genetics is the study of inheritance – the passage of characteristics, traits, and diseases from the parents to their children. It plays a role in acquiring diabetes, the extent of which is dependent on different factors. Diabetes has the tendency to run in families.
In itself, genetics cannot be blamed for all cases of diabetes. To prove that point, let us use identical twins as examples. They have the same genes. So, if one of them developed diabetes, the other should have it also, right? Not really.
Research shows that if one of the twins has type 1 diabetes, the other twin acquires it 50 percent of the time. When it comes to type 2 diabetes, the risk is 4 in 5 (80%). It shows that other factors can affect the likelihood of having diabetes.
The Risk of Having Type 1 Diabetes If One or Both Parents Have It
In the case of type 1 diabetes, only a small percentage of people who inherited the genes responsible for it go on and develop the disease. It means that if your parents have diabetes, the chance of you acquiring it is relatively small (subject to certain conditions).
To further explain this, let us discuss the different scenarios when it comes to type 1 diabetes:
• If your father has type 1 diabetes, the chance of you developing the disease is 1 in 10 (10%).
• The odds are even lower if it is your mother who has it. If her age was 25 or below when you were born, the risk is 1 in 25 (4%). If she is over that age, the risk is very small, 1 in 100 (1%).
• If one of your parents had type 1 diabetes before the age of eleven, your chance of having the condition rises slightly. On the other hand, if your parents had it after that age, the risk decreases.
• The only thing that can significantly increase your chance of developing type 1 diabetes is if one of your parents has a condition called type 2 polyglandular autoimmune syndrome (14% of people with type 1 has it). People afflicted with this disorder have problems with their adrenal and thyroid glands. If that is the case, the risk increases to 50 percent.
People of Caucasian origin are more prone to developing type 1 diabetes. The reason for this is still unclear. One possibility could be the weather; it was observed that type 1 is more prevalent in places with cold climates like the US, Europe, and Japan.
There are other factors why people develop the condition. Another possible cause would be a viral infection (contracted many years earlier) which could have damaged the pancreas.
Odds of Having Type 2 Diabetes If One or Both Parents Have It
Type 2 diabetes can be caused by several factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, environmental pollution, infections, certain drugs, and pregnancy. Genetics play a more significant role in type 2 diabetes compared to type 1. A greater number of people who have a genetic predisposition to it go on and develop the disease.
Aside from genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors can also increase the risk of having this condition. Let us discuss the different scenarios if one or both your parents have type 2 diabetes.
• If both your mother and father have type 2 diabetes, your risk of having it is about 1 in 2 (50%).
• If one of your parents had diabetes before the age of 50, the risk of having it is 1 in 7 (14%). Beyond that age, the risk goes down to 1 in 13 (8%).
• It is believed that your chance of having type 2 is greater if it is your mother who has it.
• There is a rare form of diabetes known as maturity onset diabetes of the young or MODY. If one of your parents has it, your chance of having it is 1 in 2 (50%).
Reducing the Risks of Having Diabetes
If one or both your parents have diabetes, you don’t need to feel helpless. There are things that you can do to lower your risk of acquiring the disease. First, be conscious of what you eat. Avoid drinks that have high sugar content like soda. You may also want to refrain from eating too many cakes, chocolates, and other sweets. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead.
Exercise is also important. An overweight individual has a higher chance of acquiring diabetes. Having a sedentary lifestyle is also not good. You can go jogging, do aerobics, or do simple routines. To make it more enjoyable, you can do it with family or friends. It is good for your overall health and well-being.
It is important to know the correlation between genetics and diabetes. There are different possible scenarios (whether one or both your parents have it). The risk also depends on the type of diabetes and on which parent is affected.
Going back to the question, “Will I get diabetes if my parents have it?” The answer is it depends on the situation. There are factors aside from genetics that can increase or decrease the risk. If you are worried, have yourself checked by a doctor. A fasting blood glucose test may be recommended.
Having diabetes does not mean that all is lost. If the condition is well-managed, people who have it can still live normal and productive lives.