Test to predict diabetes may be more trouble than it is worth.
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July 2007 — Recently there has been a lot of discussion about testing that can be done to determine if a person will develop certain diseases in their lifetime. As a parent of a child with diabetes, if you were given a choice of whether you want to find out if your other child/children will develop diabetes, would you do it? We were recently given the option of going through a screening process for our child who does not currently have diabetes to find out if he might be at risk for developing it. It is one of the hardest decisions my husband and I have faced.
After having one serious scare thinking that our non-diabetic son Casey had symptoms of developing diabetes including elevated blood sugar, wetting the bed and excessive thirst, we have been seriously tempted to have the testing done. After all, if we knew he might develop it, maybe we could catch it early enough to keep some of his islet cells alive. There is medical evidence that prolonging the life of the islet cells and therefore the length of the honeymoon period has a significant positive impact on the person's long-term health. If we knew he would eventually develop diabetes, we would know to watch more closely for the signs and symptoms developing so that we could hopefully create that positive result for his long-term health. But would being that hypervigilant really be a good thing? Or would it just make his childhood as short as Joel's was thanks to diabetes?
There have been so many reasons we thought we wanted to have the testing done, but even more reasons we think we don't want to know if he will develop diabetes. We already feel like Joel lost his carefree childhood far too early. Did we really want that to happen to Casey too? Wouldn't we just always be waiting for the other shoe to drop until he developed diabetes and not be able to relax and enjoy our life with both of our boys? Since we already know the signs to watch for and would be likely to catch it fairly early anyway, how much advanced warning do we really need? And is that advanced warning worth the price we would pay for it?
Of course this is a decision that parents have to make based on what they feel is best for their child and their family. For us, that decision was largely based on how we expected to feel once we learned the results. We thought we would never be able to stop waiting for him to develop the disease if we found out. Every time he was thirsty, seemed tired or irritable, we might have to wonder….is today the day? And for us (and maybe him), Casey's carefree childhood would end as soon as we found out (if we did) that he would eventually develop diabetes. I know that some parents feel that the benefit of knowing and being prepared would outweigh the burden of worrying and wondering when diabetes would develop. We felt that for us, it would take over our lives. It is a life-changing decision that warrants considering it from every angle. For us one of the angles to consider is just how different our lives would be for knowing.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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