• Intro

    When we talk about genetics, some terms get used often and we want to clarify them here. All living things are made up of billions of tiny structures called cells. Cells are the basic building blocks that make up each of us. Each cell we have contains our genes, which are even smaller structures with instructions that tell our cells how to work. Genes tell our bodies how to grow and develop, including aspects of our health. We inherit and pass our traits (like our eye color or hair color) between generations through our genes. Genetic conditions are those that are related to our genes, at least in some part.

    Changes in our genes, like mutations, can cause medical problems. Some medical problems are hereditary, meaning they are caused by a gene mutation (or mutations) that are inherited (or passed on) from a parent. Sometimes, a mutation might occur for the first time in someone, and be passed on to their children.

    Other medical problems may be multifactorial. This means they are due to a combination of genetics and other factors, such as lifestyle and environmental factors (like radiation, chemicals, and others). Examples of multifactorial conditions include some forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and cleft lip/palate.

    Interestingly, a medical problem may be genetic but not hereditary. But by definition, all hereditary conditions are genetic.

  • Genetic

    A medical condition or a trait that is related to our genes.

  • Hereditary

    A medical condition caused by a change in our genes that is passed down in a family. Sometimes this happens for the first time in someone, and they can pass it on to their children.

  • Inherited

    A medical condition or a trait that can be passed down from parent to child.

  • Multifactorial

    A medical condition or trait caused by a combination of genetics and other factors.