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Could Genetic Testing Help Determine a Diabetes Diagnosis?

It's crucial that people with diabetes are diagnosed with the correct type because the wrong diagnosis could be fatal. People with Type 2 diabetes are most often treated with improved diet, weight loss, and oral medications. Patients with Type 1 diabetes are dependent upon insulin because their immune systems destroy the beta cells that produce natural insulin. As more of the population becomes obese, a trait that is associated with Type 2 diabetes, it's becoming harder for doctors to diagnose the disease. However, a new genetic test could make things easier.

Doctors base the diagnosis of diabetes types almost entirely on weight and age, says Dr. Richard Oram, a diabetes and nephrology expert and a clinical lecturer for the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom. This is why he and his team at the University of Exeter Medical School have created a new genetic test that is relatively inexpensive and that he thinks may help improve the diagnosis of the disease.

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The genetic test measures 30 genetic variants and produces a score based on the risk factors associated with those genes and Type 1 diabetes. A high score means that the tested individual is more likely to have Type 1 diabetes, while a low score means that the person is more likely to have Type 2 diabetes. With an indication from the genetic test of which type is more likely to occur, the doctor can go ahead with the standard test for antibodies.

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Oram believes that the genetic test can give patients a better understanding of their condition and improve their attitude toward treatment and blood sugar management. It may also reduce the risk for the life-threatening complications that can occur with misdiagnoses. Oram and his team are also developing a bench-side test so that clinical laboratories can complete quick and inexpensive analyses.Fewer than 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, and numerous patients are misdiagnosed every year. Find out how you can fund diabetes research to help improve its diagnosis.

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