One of the most important things that needs to be done once someone has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, is to get everyone else in the immediate family tested too.
There are two very compelling reasons for this suggestion. The first is a suggested scientific link between genetics and type 2 diabetes. Studies that involve identical twins who are brought up in different family situations have shown that there is an eighty percent chance of one twin getting type 2 diabetes if the other twin has it. Because the twins are generally brought up in different environments, this risk is quite often seen as independent of lifestyle and dietary factors. It has also been shown that forty-five percent of first-degree relatives of an individual with type 2 diabetes will have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes.
Having said all this, the second reason for screening family member’s lies in the medical assumption that type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Even though it is too late to prevent someone from getting type 2 diabetes that already has it, heavy onset may be delayed by a significant number of years.
Diabetes is not the only condition to look out for in diabetic families. The underlying insulin resistance responsible for the diabetic tendencies in these families also causes another, even more, dangerous condition:
Metabolic Syndrome can be referred to as Syndrome X, or Insulin Resistance Syndrome. This condition is associated with a high risk of coronary heart disease, infarction, and stroke. Metabolic syndrome affects about 40% of people with poor glucose tolerance, and seventy percent of people with type 2 diabetes. It often precedes the onset of type 2 diabetes and is thought to be the reason why eighty percent of diabetics die prematurely from cardiovascular disease.
The diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is fairly straightforward and screening can be done by your general practitioner. I am, of course, making the assumption that the person who has already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has been tested for metabolic syndrome too. If not, ask your doctor if you need to be tested, as early diagnosis of metabolic syndrome can prolong life and/or improve the quality of life for some patients.
Besides type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance is also responsible for a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. This condition affects up to one in ten young women, and is can result in infertility.
All of these conditions are important to diagnose because they can be treated, and in some cases even cured. Dietary modification and exercise play an extremely important role in the management of insulin resistance and its resultant conditions. However, some problems often need medication. These include high blood pressure and cholesterol abnormalities which often occur in metabolic syndrome, as well as type 2 diabetes itself. Metformin, which is an insulin sensitizer, can play a vital role in many of the conditions caused by insulin resistance, as it targets the cause of the problem. It is particularly useful for type 2 diabetes and PCOS. Ask your doctor before changing any medications.
So if you are ever diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, and you are quite fond of your family, get them screened too. It could mean that they are around for a lot longer!
*The author of this blog is not a medical professional and this article does not contain professional medical advice. This blog is not intended to substitute for medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of the contents of this article. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.