Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School


What Is It?

Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY) is an inherited form of diabetes mellitus. It is caused by a change in one of eleven genes. Up to 5% of all diabetes cases may be due to MODY. Just like other people with diabetes, people with MODY have trouble regulating their blood sugar levels.

This disorder is more like type 1 diabetes than type 2, although it can be confused with either type. In type 1, the pancreas cannot make and release enough insulin. People with type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, usually make enough insulin, but their bodies cannot respond to it effectively (known as insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes is usually associated with being overweight, but that is not true of type 1 diabetes or MODY. However, obesity does matter. An obese person with a MODY gene mutation may develop symptoms of diabetes sooner than someone of normal weight.

MODY is more likely to affect adolescents and young adults, but it can occur at any age.

Just like other forms of diabetes, MODY can cause complications throughout the body, including increased risk of heart and vascular disease, kidney disease, and blindness.

There are eleven different types of MODY caused by changes in eleven different genes. Treatment varies, depending on the type of MODY. For example, MODY 2 can usually be managed by eating right and exercising regularly. MODY 1, 3, and 4 can usually be managed with a type of medicine called sulfonylurea therapy. MODY 5 often needs a variety of treatments because it may cause other medical problems unrelated to the blood sugar level. The genes for MODY types 7-11 were just recently discovered. People with these types of MODY are likely to respond the treatments used for patients with other types of MODY.

MODY is a dominant genetic condition, which means that people who inherit one copy of the gene mutation that causes MODY from either their mother or father will be affected. Affected people also have a 50% chance of passing along the gene mutation to each of their children.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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