Monday, October 17, 2011

Will My Daughters Inherit My Autoimmune Disease?

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It seems to me that the Moisture Seekers Newsletter, published by the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, just keeps getting better and better. 

I just received the October 2011 edition in my mailbox, and this issue is packed with great information. I especially enjoy the Q and A sections since the questions are all very pertinent and the answers written by medical experts. You can receive the Moisture Seekers newsletter for free by becoming a member of the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, which is as easy as going to their website, here.

As the mom of two daughters, I read this particular question and answer with great interest:

Question: I understand that autoimmune diseases can occur in families and I am concerned that my daughters may develop Sjogren's or another autoimmune disease. What is the recommendation for testing for autoimmune diseases?

Answer: Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR: The second question is the easier to answer. NO routine screening is helpful for the "future, potential" risk of developing Sjogren's. The most helpful thing is to be familiar with the myriad of potential symptoms/signs of Sjogren's and related autoimmune diseases/disorders. If any concerning signs develop, then one can start the investigative process. As someone with Sjogren's, you probably have experienced that this is not often a simple, straightforward process. There is no reason to be over-worried, as it is not highly likely that your daughters would develop the same autoimmune process as you.

Yes, there is a genetic component for all autoimmune diseases. However, it is very dilute because multiple genes (polygenetic) are involved. Historically, the HLA-DR3 (histocompatability) type has had the tightest connection with Sjogren's. HLA-DQ1/DQ2 has some association with more severe Sjogren's. Also, genes are modified by the environment, medications, viruses, etc. thus adding even more complexity to the susceptibility of autoimmunity. This process currently is an active area for research and is referred to as "Epigenetics" (gene modification).

The strongest genetic association is actually just the increased risk of developing autoimmune reactions in general. If a family member has Sjogren's, then there is a ~ 30 - 35% chance of developing an autoimmune disorder (PMID (Pub Med) # 12453311). Furthermore, it is usually some other disease, not the same on the the family member has.

Worrying will not help or change anything for your daughters. We know stress (different for different people) can trigger the immune system in a way to start an autoimmune process or make it worse. This is a further reason to be informed but not worry about it.

8 comments:

Anita Stafford said...

This topic is always in the back of my mind.

Scott S said...

According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, the ability to develop an autoimmune disease is determined by a dominant genetic trait that is very common (20% of the population) that may present in families as different autoimmune diseases within the same family. We know that autoimmune diseases are more likely occur in children who have parents with autoimmune diseases; my own mother had ulcerative colitis, but had three children, two of whom (including me) have autoimmune-mediated type 1 diabetes mellitus. Aside from the disease etiology, however, there is almost nothing similar, making it difficult to look for symptoms but its important for pediatricians to beware that there is a family history of autoimmune diseases. Virtually every autoimmune disease is multigenic, meaning many genes are involved, not just a single gene, hence predictions are difficult and seldom accurate. On the bright side, the majority of kids will NOT inherit an autoimmune disease, only a small percentage will necessarily be impacted.

Marshmallow Mum said...

Thanks for this information, my husband and i both have autoimmune disorders (the same one) and our son is being investigated for Sjogren's Syndrome (he is 6) - he has already tested positive for some of the tests and experienced symptoms. Its quite scary as the doctors think they want to investigate our 2 year old daughter because she has a high level of inflammation and now a family history.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog, and am so grateful!
I have tested positive for Sjogren's, my mom has it, and now my daughter (in her early 20's) is showing symptoms.Here's my question...should she be tested? I know this sounds like a ridiculous question, but my concern is her health insurance. She's still young, I don't know if health reform will take place if the current admin loses the WH... .She's currently on our health ins. but she'll lose that at 26 (TY Obama for the extension to 26!) I'm worried she won't be able to get a new policy if she's diagnosed with a long-term chronic illness, particularly as she's already diagnosed with celiac. I'm told that realistically, when my COBRA expires soon I won't be eligible to purchase insurance because I have pre-existing conditions.
Would be glad to hear yr advice. - C.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather had Sjögrens and so did my mother and now I have it. I'm "only" 27 yet but it's already making life feeling pretty nasty and knowing that it will only get worse makes it even nastier. I decided when my mother got diagnosed (I was 16 or so) that I simply wouldn't have children since I wouldn't want to live with the knowledge of having given them something like Sjögrens to live with for the rest of their lives. I know the percentage isn't that high but I've never been "lucky" in life so just rather not risk it and I figured that there is enough children out there to adopt if and when I want kids. =^_^=

Robin said...

Auto immune issues run in my family on my mom's side. I have Sjogrens, my cousin has fibromyalgia, and our grandfather had Dupuytren's Contracture. My husband and his mom have rosacea and we just found out our 8 year old has Occular rosacea. He and I are using the some of the same brands of eyedrops. Wonder if I can get any 2 for 1 deals?

Steff said...

My father had RA which did not appear until he was in his early 40's. I developed Hashimotos Disease at 35 after my daughter was born. Looking back on sympton's of Sjogren's I honestly think it was lingering in my system waiting for a reason to appear. It started the year after my dad passed as his started the year after he lost his brother and father. My daughter already has Hashimoto's and Raynaud's. Not to mention depression. I think it is just a matter of time. Thank you Julia for this blog it is a life saver

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