How Can Genetics Affect Diabetes?

Shawna Purcell - Genetics and Diabetes

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both serious, chronic diseases that require ongoing management. They’re different in several ways, but both have a genetic component. In this blog, Dr. Shawna Purcell of Capital Diabetes & Weight Loss Center in Olympia WA explains more about how genetics affects both types of diabetes:

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes usually, but not always, develops in children and teenagers. If you have this disease, your body’s immune system attacks part of your pancreas and destroys insulin-producing cells. Insulin allows your body to open your cells to let glucose (sugar) in, where it can be used for energy. Without insulin, the sugar stays and builds up in your blood, leaving your body’s cells deprived of sugar.

In contrast, type 2 diabetes usually occurs during adulthood but has been increasing among children. Your body continues to make some insulin – unlike the case with type 1 diabetes – but it either doesn’t produce enough or your body develops a resistance to insulin.

What role does genetics play in type 1 diabetes?

If you have one or more of a specific genetic marker, your chances of developing this type of diabetes can increase. Having this marker doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have type 1 diabetes, however.

What are other factors that play a role in developing type 1 diabetes?

Other factors also play a role in developing type 1 diabetes. They include the following:

  • Viral infections – Your immune system may mistakenly turn against your body instead of fighting off infections.
  • Race/ethnicity – In the U.S., Caucasians seem to be more likely to have type 1 diabetes when compared to African-Americans and Latinos. Chinese people and people in South America also have a lower risk.
  • Geography – People in northern climates are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. This is probably because colder weather forces people inside, where they’re more likely to be exposed to viral infections from other people.

What role does genetics play in type 2 diabetes?

Genetics can play a role in your tendency to develop type 2 diabetes. If you have this disease, odds are good that you’re not the first person in your family to have it. Several gene mutations have been linked to this disease, but other factors also play a role.

What are other factors that play a role in developing type 2 diabetes?

The following factors can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Weight – Excess weight is the top risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. It can make your cells become resistant to insulin. If you store fat in your abdomen, your risk also increases.
  • Lack of exercise – Being active helps keep your weight down and uses glucose as energy. It also makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
  • Race/Ethnicity – African-Americans, Latinos, American Indians, and Asian-Americans are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than Caucasians are.
  • Age – If you’re over 45, your chances increase, probably because you’re more likely to gain weight.
  • Gestational diabetes – If you had diabetes when you were pregnant, you’re more likely to later have type 2 diabetes.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome – Women who have this syndrome, which is characterized by irregular periods, excess hair and are obese are more likely to be diabetic.

If you’re interested in finding out more about diabetes care,make an appointment today for an evaluation with Dr. Shawna Purcell in Olympia, WA.

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