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Do Autoimmune Diseases Run in Families?

Reviewed on 4/4/2019

Ask a Doctor

My dad and uncle both got a diabetes diagnosis in their 30s and my mom has fought psoriasis for decades. I’m 25 and nominally healthy, but I worry about my chances as I get older because of my genetics – psoriasis and diabetes are pretty serious autoimmune diseases. Do autoimmune diseases run in families? Are they hereditary?

Doctor’s Response

A family history of autoimmune diseases is a risk factor for developing an autoimmune disorder yourself. However, in families predisposed to autoimmune disorders, the same disorders are not necessarily passed from parent to child.

Having one type of autoimmune disorder in the family can predispose children to other types of autoimmune disease. For example, a parent may have lupus, but the child may develop multiple sclerosis. One family member may have celiac disease but another is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Autoimmune diseases are not passed down by one single gene, but likely a combination of several genes along with other factors such as environment that trigger the disease to develop.

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Reviewed on 4/4/2019
References
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. Do you know your family AQ? 2018. 26 December 2018 .

Office on Women's Health. Autoimmune diseases. 22 May 2018. 26 December 2018 .

Sutherlin, Emily. Autoimmune diseases: Why our body sometimes turns on itself. 6 June 2016. Genetic Literacy Project. 26 December 2018 .
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