Will my children inherit diabetes from me?

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William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
If you come from one of those families with an intergenerational family history of diabetes (mom and pop, sibs, grandparents, uncles, cousins)--the odds are pretty good that your kids will inherit the family tradition.

But fear is the only thing you need to be afraid of. Working with a great many Hispanic families with intergenerational diabetes, I’ve found that families develop a sense of fatalism about the disease that gets in the way of early treatment.

This is why I’m always harping on the fact that diabetes isn’t really the problem at all. It’s the high blood sugar from diabetes that’s the problem. It may seem like a small difference, but it is not. High sugars are the kindling that start the fires of diabetes complications. All that scary stuff (kidney failure, blindness, amputations, death) that happened to grandpa were blood sugar driven, not diabetes driven. If you take your diabetes by the reins and control it, you don’t need to share in your family’s fate.

So I want you to shift your mental focus. I don’t want you to worry about whether or not your children will inherit your diabetes; I want you to assume they will. Then I want you to set a good example for them by being open about your diabetes and striving hard to control it. Show them the way to health by your own actions. Eat smart. Move smart. Test often. Talk about your numbers. Take your meds.

And for your adult, or overweight teenage children; get them tested every year. Diabetes is unique and beautiful in that the keys to treating it are largely in your hands. I can think of no other disease where our own behavior can do so much to help or hurt us. So don’t fear for your children. Equip them with the tools to live in healthy harmony with their diabetes.

The likelihood that a child will develop diabetes is increased if there is diabetes in the family.

  • No diabetes in the family: 11% chance of type 2 diabetes by age 70 and 1% chance of type 1 diabetes by age 50
  • One parent with type 1 diabetes: 6% chance of type 1 diabetes (father with type 1 diabetes); 4% chance of type 1 diabetes (mother with diabetes who was younger that 25 when the child was born); 1% chance of type 1 diabetes (mother with diabetes who was older than 25 when the child was born) *Risk doubles if the parent was diagnosed by age 11*
  • One parent with type 2 diabetes (diagnosed before the age of 50): 14% chance of type 2 diabetes
  • Both parents with type 2 diabetes (overall risk): 45% chance of type 2 diabetes

Continue Learning about Diabetes

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.
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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.