Genetics is the branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of genetically-linked or hereditary diseases. It includes both genetic counselors and medical geneticists, who may be involved in either patient care or research.
Medical geneticists are doctors who study genes and diseases that are caused by genes. There are many diseases linked to genetics, including:
Medical geneticists typically spend their career in research, although some treat or counsel patients. A patient may see a medical geneticist to obtain more information about their disorder or about how an inherited disorder might impact their family. The field of medical genetics includes the following four subspecialties:
Related to medical genetics is the field of genetic counseling. These healthcare professionals are not physicians, but they are educators who help patients interpret medical information about genetic risk, which can sometimes be difficult to understand or overwhelming. When families face the possibility of having a child with an inherited disease, genetic counselors educate them about their specific risks and options. They analyze patterns in family history and interpret the medical probability of a genetic disease occurring. They provide support and put families in contact with resources. Genetic counselors help families adapt to all of the implications that a hereditary disease can have in their life.