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August 27, 2003

Genetics and Heredity

Question from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia:

My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about 15 months ago, and we have since had another child who, at one year of age, was diagnosed with psoriasis. My husband and his brother suffer from psoriasis, two of his sisters suffer greatly from arthritis, and his other sister has a child who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age eight. I am concerned at the number of autoimmune problems in our family whether any of this means my son will have a greater risk of diabetes or another autoimmune problem. Is there any greater risk for him? Is my daughter at greater risk of perhaps developing psoriasis or any additional problem with this family history?

Answer:

It is true that autoimmune disorders tend to ‘coalesce’ so that if a person has one then they are at greater risk of another. However, this does not mean that this is inevitable and the majority of patients with diabetes have no other autoimmune problems.

As regards family history; once again most patients with type 1 diabetes do not have one. I cannot say whether the problems in your family will be transmitted but while the risk is inherently greater than in families without the traits, it is likely to be low.

KJR