Knowing your health heritage: the familial link of diseases
(BPT) - Family members can have many things in common, including physical characteristics and personality traits. While some traits are obvious, like having red hair or blue eyes, some shared traits are not as obvious, such as the risk for developing a common medical condition, like high cholesterol, or a rare disease.
A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 people, and about 30 million Americans have one of 7,000 known rare diseases. Because about 80 percent of rare diseases are genetic in origin, knowing one’s family history is an essential part of the recognition and diagnosis of these conditions.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for family members of someone diagnosed with a rare disease to go untested, which could delay getting an accurate diagnosis and potentially appropriate medical attention. Families should keep an open line of communication about diseases that may be genetic and if appropriate, encourage their relatives to seek evaluation by a knowledgeable medical professional. Nikia, 32, who is living with a rare swelling disease called hereditary angioedema (HAE), knows firsthand the importance of familial testing.