Believe it or not, your DNA carries more than just the genes your parents passed on to you. In fact, your DNA contains significant information about your present health and other potential health concerns. Genetic testing can detect genetic mutations that can develop into life-threatening diseases over the years.
Results from genetic testing can benefit both individuals and medical practitioners to detect, monitor, and treat genetic disorders. Another benefit to genetic testing is preventing the development of the most common hereditary diseases. That said if you’re looking to find ways how you can improve your health to avoid these diseases and more, then read on to discover the benefits of genetic testing.
What Does Heritage Have To Do With Your Health
The genes your great-grandparents possessed were passed down from one generation to the next. That means certain characteristics you might enjoy now, such as your curly hair, fair skin, lean body type, or athletic ability, are just variations of what they used to have. However, not everything you’ve inherited from them is good for you.
As mentioned earlier, the genes you inherit from your ancestors not only come in physical form, but they also come with a health risk baggage. In fact, some of the most common hereditary diseases people suffer from include asthma, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Yes, your family history has a very important role not only in your appearance but also in the context of your health. Your family’s long line of diseases did not happen by chance it’s in their DNA and it’s in yours.
This is why genetic testing is important when understanding what your specific health needs are. It allows you to get a glimpse of what your genetic makeup looks like, how it affects your overall health, and what you can do to prevent yourself from developing inherited diseases.
What Is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing is a process that involves examining a person’s DNA instructions for genetic mutations. These mutations or changes in your DNA are the ones responsible for the development of genetic and chromosomal disorders in your body.
Genetic tests detect these mutations and determine whether there’s a high risk of potentially developing and/or carrying a certain disease or genetic disorder later in life, or passing it down to your child.
Genetic tests vary depending on why you would need one. Some tests will require professional assistance from gene testing clinics.
How do they collect your DNA? A sample of your blood, skin, tissue or amniotic fluid will be collected and submitted to a laboratory for analysis. Pretty simple, right?
Why Should You Get Tested
Genetic testing plays a vital role in helping manage your health. Test results can help determine the risk of developing inherited diseases early on and help you create a plan to prevent them from getting worse.
Genetic testing can also help you determine whether you’re a carrier of a certain disease. This type of testing is especially helpful for parent planning. Genetic testing informs future parents about possible transmissions of genetic disorders to their offspring during pregnancy.
Types Of Genetic Testing
Here’s a comprehensive list of genetic testing done from before conception up to when you actually need medication:
- Carrier testing: Two copies of mutated genes are a recipe for genetic disorders. Carrier testing is done to help prevent mutations between genes associated with genetic diseases. Partners who are planning to have children can benefit from carrier testing to detect whether they’re carriers of these gene mutations or not. Check out: the types of gene mutations.
- Preimplantation testing: Also known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), this is done on embryos fertilized via in-vitro fertilization. Cells from fertilized embryos are tested to assure there are no genetic mutations prior to implantation. This test helps reduce the risk of babies inheriting and/or forming genetic abnormalities during pregnancy.
- Prenatal testing: This is done to detect genetic anomalies in a fetus’s genetic makeup. This type of test is conducted on pregnant women when there’s an increased risk that the baby will have a genetic defect during birth. Do note that prenatal testing doesn’t guarantee that it can identify every possible disorder and birth defect.
- Newborn screening: It’s one of the most common types of genetic testing available these days. In the United States alone, all states require that newborn babies be tested right after birth to identify if any genetic abnormalities are present in their DNA. This helps inform parents about early treatment if their babies are found with one. Genetic disorders detected during newborn screening include congenital hypothyroidism and sickle cell disease or phenylketonuria (PKU).
- Predictive testing: As the name implies, it refers to getting tested for genetic conditions prior to experiencing their symptoms. This type of testing is especially helpful in making medical decisions now to prevent (or even counter) further development of certain genetic disorders.
- Diagnostic testing: This is conducted to individuals who suspect they have symptoms of a disease caused by mutated genes. Undergoing a diagnostic test can help reveal whether or not you’re suffering from disorders caused by changes in your DNA, like thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, Huntington’s disease, etc.
- Pharmacogenetics: It refers to the study of how individuals respond to certain medications based on their genetic makeup. If you already have a preexisting health condition, pharmacogenetic testing can help you identify the most effective medication you should take to see better results.
What Are The Benefits Of Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing provides several benefits to your overall health, whether the result returns positive for a certain gene mutation or negative. In fact, just by taking the test and seeing the results, you can already feel a sense of relief and take well-informed actions to manage and improve your health.
While seeing a negative result can certainly eliminate concerns about your health, a positive result can also be a good thing when you and your doctor work together to devise a plan for prevention, monitoring, and treatment options. This is why getting tested is definitely a win-win situation.
What Are The Limitations Of Genetic Testing?
As amazing and advanced genetic testing may sound, it still is in its early stages of development. It doesn’t necessarily provide all the answers concerning your health, as well as not everyone is a candidate for genetic testing as it’s expensive and unnecessary for those who have no known medical history. Still, the best course of action is to work with your doctor about the treatment that can best help improve your medical situation.