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What is MODY?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2016
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Maturity onset diabetes of the young, or MODY, is a collective term that is used to define any one of several forms of diabetes mellitus that are considered hereditary in nature. MODY usually involves situations where there is an issue with the amount of insulin naturally secreted by the body, and the origin of the issue appears to be inherited from the family line. Currently, the medical profession has defined six different types of MODY that may be present.

The concept of MODY was first defined in 1964. At that time, diabetes mellitus was normally understood to occur in two specific types or classes. Juvenile-onset diabetes was understood to more or less coincide with what is today known as Type 1 diabetes. The second type, maturity-onset diabetes, tends to correspond with what is called Type 2 diabetes today.

In years past, MODY was applied to any situation where the presence of asymptomatic hyperglycemia that did not progress to diabetic ketosis was detected in a child or a young adult. As modern medical research yielded more information about the nature of diabetes, this application came to be understood as an oversimplification of the situation. This led to the recognition of the six different classes or forms of MODY that are currently identified.

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The contemporary use of MODY designates specifically diabetic states that are believed to be present at the time of birth and are linked to inherited factors. This is in contrast to situations where diabetes develops due to combinations of poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and other environmental factors that can lead to the development of diabetes later in life. While most forms of MODY are still understood to be asymptomatic, there are some instances where a few outward signals appear. These can include frequent thirst that cannot be sated, accompanied by frequent urination.

Because MODY does not tend to exhibit symptoms, the discovery of the presence of the condition is often a byproduct of testing for other health conditions. As part of prenatal care, a glucose tolerance test may be administered and reveal the presence of MODY. Routine screening of various levels of nutrients in the body may also lead to the discovery of MODY.

In many cases, persons who are diagnosed with MODY are capable of managing the condition with a regimen of a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in nutrients. Diet coupled with regular exercise can help to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. In some instances, exercise and diet can be augmented with the use of oral agents to aid in glycemic control. Rarely does a person with MODY have to resort to insulin injections unless the condition progresses to full-blown diabetes, although this can be the case with MODY 1 or 3.

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