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April 30, 2006

Diagnosis and Symptoms, Genetics and Heredity

Question from Northern Ireland:

My daughter is almost four. She has a small sized ventricular septal defect (VSD). She has always been very much underweight, refuses to eat very much and is very often fractious and difficult. My mom died a number of years ago, at 51, from a heart attack (artherosclerosis). Her brother died at 36 from the same, but he had also been diagnosed at age 10 with type 1 diabetes. Could I be correct in thinking mom may have had diabetes also but was never diagnosed? Is diabetes inherited? And, in relation to my daughter, could she be type 1 also, with the failure to gain weight? Cardiologists have put it down to genetics, as both her dad and myself are of slight build. I am on the brink of having my daughter tested, if the doctors take me seriously.

Answer:

Nothing about your daughter sounds like diabetes. Diabetes has a genetic/familial component, but then something else has to “trigger” the pancreas to stop making sufficient insulin. This might be obesity for type 2 diabetes or might be a virus or other food exposure such as cows’ milk proteins or wheat/gluten. There is much research about this but no definite conclusion yet. As far as other family members, you are also correct that diabetes can be asymptomatic and even mild high sugar levels are associated with premature heart disease, lipid problems, hypertension, but not with structural heart problems such as VSDs.

SB

[Editor’s comment: See also the “Symptoms of Diabetes on our web site.

BH]