What tests can predict my child's risk of type 1 diabetes?

Researchers are learning how to predict a person's odds of getting diabetes. For example, most whites with type 1 diabetes have genes called HLA-DR3 or HLA-DR4. If you and your child are white and share these genes, your child's risk is higher. (Suspect genes in other ethnic groups are less well studied. The HLA-DR7 gene may put African Americans at risk, and the HLA-DR9 gene may put Japanese at risk.)

Other tests can also make your child's risk clearer. A special test that tells how the body responds to glucose can tell which school-aged children are most at risk.

Another, more expensive, test can be done for children who have siblings with type 1 diabetes. This test measures antibodies to insulin, to islet cells in the pancreas, or to an enzyme called glutamic acid decarboxylase. High levels can indicate that a child has a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Ask your provider to refer you to a medical geneticist or genetic counselor if you have concerns about your baby’s risk for diabetes. They are trained to assess the contributions of genetic and environmental factors in causing many diseases, including diabetes. They will know the results of the latest diabetes and genetics studies and studies to prevent diabetes in high-risk individuals.

The role of genetics in evaluating a person's risk for type 1 diabetes is a relatively new and developing field of medicine. Some genes have been discovered that might identify an increased risk for type 1 diabetes (HLA-D3 or HLA-D4 in Caucasians, for example). Other tests that can be used to predict diabetes risk in children whose siblings have diabetes include: antibodies to the pancreas, antibodies to islet cells in the pancreas and to an enzyme in the body called glutamic acid decarboxylase. These and other tests that might predict risk for diabetes are generally quite expensive and not routinely ordered.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.