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From Virginia, USA:

I have 2 children with diabetes. Now it seems my third child also may have it. There is no known diabetes on either mine or their father's side of the family. Why did 3 children get this? He is 19. His brother was only 3 (20 years ago).


Because your eldest son became diabetic at three age of three I am assuming that the diagnosis in the two eldest was Type 1A or autoimmune diabetes which is by far the commonest form in Caucasian children in the US. Even though the incidence of this condition seems to be increasing, the chance of having three siblings with the same problem is still one in several million, albeit not unique. In the case of your youngest son you might wish to ask his doctor about getting an antibody test done which should clear up the issue of whether he too has this kind of diabetes or not. A telephone number to call for more information on this test is 1-800-425-8361.

It would be very difficult to decide if this story is more than statistical happenstance without a lot more investigation. First of all, there is the unique genetic predisposition to diabetes which is defined in terms of certain kinds of proteins on the cell surface: it is probable that genes making your sons especially vulnerable were inherited from both sides and this also helps understand the lack of any family history. This can be investigated; but not many centers can do it.There is also known to be an environmental factor which is not yet understood although early exposure to certain kinds of cow's milk remains one consideration.

A final possibility is that your sons may have some other much rarer form of diabetes which nonetheless in which it is quite likely that the details of inheritance are not yet understood.

Certainly it would be a help to be able to answer all these questions; but this would inevitably involve a lot of trouble and almost certainly expense too. Nor would the understanding significantly change treatment or the overriding need to achieve and maintain the highest degree of blood sugar control using what is now called an intensive insulin regimen or perhaps an insulin pump.


Original posting 4 Feb 1999
Posted to Genetics and Heredity and Research: Causes and Prevention


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