Hereditary illnesses are sometimes passed down from parents to their children in much the same way as gene traits. For instance, blue-eyed parents will also have children with blue eyes. But diseases can prove much more subtle, as children might inherit the abnormal, dysfunctional genes of their parents even though previous generations never suffered from the symptoms of that disease. Even today children can be born with serious, chronic or even fatal illnesses. Parents must accept these challenges when they arise, seek support, and avoid blaming themselves.
- Genetic Predispositions to DiseasesGenes are bits of chemical information that determine our characteristics, by carrying hereditary traits from one generation to the next, including everything from eye color to diseases. Each genetic trait has two genes, which might be identical or might include one gene that is dominant and one that is recessive. For instance, the gene for brown eyes dominates the gene for blue eyes. Illnesses can also be passed down within a family, even if the carriers show none of the symptoms.
- Genetic DiseasesThe risk of a genetic disease increases if both parents carry the dysfunctional, abnormal gene, even if they are nonsymptomatic carriers. The better known genetic disorders include sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, and cystic fibrosis, which are more prevalent among certain demographic groups. Other diseases include Phenylketonuria, autosomal dominant disease, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy and may include conditions like cleft lip, spina bifida and Down syndrome.
- Coping With a Child Who Has a Hereditary IllnessDespite the security of modern medicine, some children still face serious, chronic and even fatal illnesses. It’s important for parents to cope with these challenges. They need to confront and accept the diagnosis, and be honest with themselves and their other children about the realities of hereditary illnesses. They should keep the lines of communication open within the family, seek out support groups, and avoid bearing the guilt upon their own shoulders for the child’s situation.
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