Genetic tests can provide “aha!” health moments
Merla/Shutterstock Alix, a working mother in Seattle, had been troubled by symptoms of chronic fatigue, repeated illness, and “stabbing” pains in her abdomen since childhood (here are some possible medical reasons for such stomach pains). Over the years, multiple doctors running multiple tests were unable to find a cause, and often told her the problems must be in her head. Finally after especially bad stomach pains prompted a rush to the emergency room, Alix turned to 23andMe, a personal genetics company. She ordered a kit that involved collecting a saliva sample and sending it back to the company, which then provided a genetic analysis. The results indicated it was very likely that she suffered from lactose intolerance. After over 40 years of pain and confusion, Alix says her symptoms “all made sense.” She changed her diet, and now feels so much better that it’s as if she has a “new body” and is finally able to fully enjoy life with her family.
DNA testing is increasingly going DIY
Image Point Fr/Shutterstock Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing—which allows customers to purchase genetic analysis themselves without going through a healthcare provider—is catching on in a big way. In April, the FDA granted 23andMe approval to sell consumers reports that reveal their genetic risk for 10 conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, celiac disease, hereditary thrombophilia, and more. “Healthcare is becoming more and more consumer-driven over time,” says Mary Freivogel, MS, CGC, National Society of Genetic Counselors President and cancer expert. “Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is likely here to stay and expand dramatically over the next five years.” Indeed, 23andMe, along with other companies, such as Color and Counsyl, offer genetic testing (sometimes requiring physician involvement) in areas that include wellness characteristics (like sleep and weight), carrier status (for diseases like cycstic fibrosis), inherited cancer risk, and even ancestral background. Discover 7 ways your genes impact your drinking habits.