Does My Age of Diagnosis Affect My Children's Risk?
Is there any correlation between being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a later age and less risk that your children will develop diabetes? I was diagnosed at 31. Richard Davey, Woodridge, Illinois
Janis McWilliams, RN, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM, responds:
Yes, there is evidence that a later age of diagnosis reduces your children's risk.
What to Know: Genes alone aren't enough to cause diabetes. People inherit a predisposition to develop type 1 diabetes, and then something in their environment must trigger the disease. Scientists are trying to discover what the triggers are; the suspects include viruses.
Fathers with type 1 diabetes have a greater chance than mothers of having a child who develops the disease. While the evidence on exact risk rates is not yet crystal clear, the best data show that, in general, the odds of a man with type 1 diabetes having a child with type 1 diabetes are 1 in 17, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are a woman with type 1 diabetes and your child was born before you were 25, your child's risk is estimated at 1 in 25; if your child was born after you turned 25, your child's risk is believed to be 1 in 100.
A child's risk for developing type 1 is less if the parent developed diabetes at an older age. A child's risk is doubled, the ADA says, if the parent developed type 1 diabetes before age 11. If both parents have type 1 diabetes, the risk to the child is estimated at from 10 to 25 percent.
Find Out More: Most people who develop type 1 diabetes have immune markers in their blood, such as certain antibodies and enzymes. Blood tests for such markers or for specific genes can gauge the risk for developing type 1 in relatives of people with the disease.
Takeaways: Relatives of people with type 1 diabetes may be able to participate in studies (and assess their own risk) through TrialNet, a network of researchers dedicated to the study, prevention, and early treatment of type 1. For details, go to diabetestrialnet.org.