Diabetes is the sweet disease that can lead to many health problems including heart diseases, stroke and even gout. Diabetes is becoming a very common disease not only in the Western world, but also in developing countries. Researchers are searching for answers that lead to concrete causes of diabetes. Many times, it is seen that diabetes runs in families.
What is Diabetes?
It is a condition that develops when the body is not able to produce or use the stored glucose in the body. This causes the blood sugar or glucose levels in the body to rise. When sugar or starchy foods are eaten they are broken down into glucose.
This glucose is then converted into energy by the body with the help of insulin. This is a hormone produced by the pancreas. If there is an insufficient amount of insulin in the body, it will lead to improper absorption of glucose by the body. Thus, the level of glucose in the blood rises leading to increase in blood sugar level.
There are two types of diabetes that can affect people. Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile onset or insulin dependent diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, or adult onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes are the two types.
Type 1 diabetes affects children and young adults, as their body does not produce any insulin. Thus, making them dependent on insulin injections for survival. Type 2 diabetes occurs in people over 40 and those who are obese, have a family history of diabetes and unhealthy lifestyle.
Is There a Genetic Risk in Developing Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that is commonly seen in adults as well as children and young adults these days. Most of the time, if one or both or the parents have diabetes, their children seem to develop diabetes during some time of their life. This is very common and people often think diabetes runs in their families.
Hereditary Risk for Type 1 Diabetes
Genes are passed on from parents to their children. Of these genes, when the child inherits the gene for Type 1 diabetes, he or she may develop it at some point of their life. However, if these genes are absent, a person will not develop type 1 diabetes.
Statistically speaking, if both parents have type 1 diabetes, there is 30% chance that the child will develop type 1 diabetes. If it is just the mother with type 1 diabetes, there is 4% chance that offspring born before she was 25 years will have type 1 diabetes.
If the mother crossed 25 years of age, there is just 1% chance the child will develop diabetes. In case of the father, there is 6% chance his child will develop diabetes.
Hereditary Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
In case of type 2 diabetes, there is no specific genetic pattern. Therefore, the chances of developing diabetes depends on the number of people in your family with the condition.
Also, presence of other genetic disorders, like Down's syndrome, increase the risk of developing diabetes. However, it has been estimated, if both parents suffer from type 2 diabetes, there is 75% chance their child may develop it too.
It has been found by American Diabetes Association that if there is an individual whose mother has Type 1 diabetes, then the risk of developing diabetes in her child is 1 in 25. And if the individual was born before his/her mother was 25 years old, then the risk of developing juvenile diabetes is 1 in 100.
If the father has Type 1 diabetes, the chances of the individual developing diabetes is 1 in 17. In case either of the parent has Type 2 diabetes before they turn 50, the chances of the individual developing diabetes is 1 in 7. If the either of the parent develops it after they turn 50, the risk of diabetes is 1 in 13.
Is Gestational Diabetes Hereditary?
There is another type of diabetes called gestational diabetes that develops in women during pregnancy. This diabetes affects 2 to 7% of pregnant women. This occurs because during pregnancy, the body is busy with the different hormones secreted for development of the fetus.
During this time, the body requires more insulin to keep the blood glucose levels in check. However, if a woman's pancreas fail to deliver the required amount of insulin, it may lead to a rise in blood sugar levels. This will lead to gestational diabetes.
The symptoms of gestational diabetes disappear once the baby is born. However, it can develop again when the woman gets pregnant again and is a sign that the woman is at a high risk of developing diabetes later in life. This brings one to the question is gestational diabetes hereditary or not.
According to researchers, they do not have the exact cause for gestational diabetes during pregnancy. However, it is thought that hormones from the placenta play a role in developing gestational diabetes.
It is said, the placental hormones may prevent insulin to act and therefore, lead to high blood sugar levels. Also, women who are overweight or those who do not follow a healthy lifestyle, may develop gestational diabetes. Women with a history or family of diabetics too may come under the risk of developing hyperglycemia.
Other Factors that Play a Role in Developing Diabetes
Other than genes, there are other factors that can contribute to development of diabetes. Some of the risk factors for type 1 diabetes include vitamin D deficiency, underlying autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain viruses like Coxsackievirus, Epstein-Barr virus, enterovirus, etc.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, inactive physical life, age, unhealthy diet, age, damage to pancreas, hormonal disorders, certain medications and excess sugar intake.
Therefore, as you must have understood by now, it is very difficult to answer if diabetes is a hereditary disease. A combination of genetic and environmental factors play a major role in developing diabetes. You need to do is maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow a strict diet and exercise routine, especially if you have diabetes running in your family.