There’s a lot of fascination about twins and whether they share a deeper connection than regular siblings. Can they read each others’ minds? Can they feel each others’ pain? While there may be a lot of anecdotal evidence, there’s no scientific proof to support these theories. But one thing we do know for sure is the connection between twins and health.
Diseases are either due to genetic reasons, environmental, or some combination of the two. Congenital malformations, like cleft palate, and conditions like diabetes are influenced very heavily by genetic factors. Therefore, members of the same family are more likely to develop these if one family member has them.
The closer two people are genetically, the more likely they are to develop the same genetic conditions. For instance, if your brother develops diabetes, you’re more likely than the general population to develop it as well. Fraternal (non-identical) twins may look more alike, but when it comes to genes, they’re just as similar as regular siblings. That means that they’re not more inclined to develop the same conditions as any other brother/sister pair.
However, identical twins have the same exact DNA, making them more predisposed to the same genetic health conditions than both fraternal twins and other siblings. For example, while a fraternal twin is 5 percent more likely than the average person to have a cleft lip if his or her twin has one, an identical twin is 35 percent more likely. The difference in how much more an identical twin is predisposed to the same conditions as his/her twin will vary according to the extent to which genes play a role in a condition.
But it’s important to note that most conditions are not solely influenced by genetics. Environment and lifestyle often play a role, and for some conditions (like multiple sclerosis), the extent of the role played by each factor is unknown. So, while it’s important to know your family health history – particularly between identical twins – avoiding toxins in the environment and living a healthy lifestyle are the best methods of maintaining health.
Do your identical twin children both have the same health condition? Tell us about it below.
Sources: geneticalliance.org.uk and multiples.about.com