• What Genetic Testing Can Tell You About Your Body

    on Dec 7th, 2018

Just think, for a couple hundred dollars, companies can test your genes to trace your lineage back many generations, giving you some idea as to where your blue eyes or your darker complexion came from. While this type of testing is a wonderful way to explore your history, what is its role when it comes to your health?

Here at Lafferty Family Care, we want to provide our patients in Bentonville, Arkansas, with the tools they need to lead healthy, happy lives long into the future. To do this, it helps to figure out what you should be on the lookout for, and that answer is sometimes found in your genes.

Good health care often involves a fair bit of detective work, and your genes can provide some valuable clues. But they’re just clues, not crystal balls. Here’s what genetic testing can tell you about your health.

All in the family

Genetic testing can help identify whether you carry a mutated gene that puts you more at risk of developing certain diseases that have already affected previous generations in your family. For example, one of the more important uses of genetic testing, if you’re a woman, is to check for the BRCA genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancers. Women who carry mutations in these genes are five times more likely to develop breast cancer and 15-40 times more likely to have ovarian cancer.

This valuable testing allows you the unique opportunity to take preventive steps and monitor your health more closely.

Genetic tests can also look for markers that may indicate whether you’re more prone to other diseases, such as celiac disease, macular degeneration, bipolar disorder, and Parkinson’s disease.

Passing it on

Another reason why people may want to undergo genetic counseling and testing is to learn whether they can pass on certain diseases to their children, even if they don’t have the conditions themselves, which is especially true of cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. These inherited diseases can be passed on to a child if both of the parents have the abnormal gene.

And once you’re pregnant, you can have your unborn baby tested for abnormalities in their genes, which is usually done through amniocentesis. This type of genetic testing can determine whether your child has Down syndrome, for example, and the testing is very accurate — about 98-99% — though the testing can’t determine the degree to which your baby may be affected.

There are limits

But before you jump into the world of genetic testing, we want to warn you that these tests are predictive only. Most of the time, we’re testing for the presence of problematic genes that may — or may not — lead to a health issue. If you test positive for a mutated or abnormal gene, it simply means you’re more at risk, but not that you will, with certainty, develop a certain disease.

That said, genetic testing is useful if we’ve already diagnosed you with a condition because we can determine whether it stems from your genes, or something else, which can dictate how we proceed with treatment.

When it comes to the human body, there are many factors that come into play, not the least of which are your lifestyle choices and your environment. The role these factors play in whether you develop a disease, and how the disease progresses, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Ultimately, genetic testing is an extremely valuable tool with great applications in both diagnostics and preventive care. But it does have its limits, and you also need to know what you’re looking for when you start out, which is where we can help with genetic counseling.

 

If you’d like to explore whether genetic testing may shed some light on your health, or the health of your family, please give us a call or use the online scheduling tool on this website to set up an appointment.

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