All of us have between 20,000-25,000 genes that make up who we are, from hair and skin color to blood type and metabolism. Our genes can even contain clues to which illnesses or medical conditions we are most likely to acquire during our lifetimes.
Genetic testing provides health care providers with a genetic profile, a sort of “cheat sheet” that can unlock an amazing amount of information about your underlying health. Recently, doctors have been learning how to use genetic testing to manage the treatment of chronic medical problems, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
As a leading psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California, Bowman Medical Group is committed to advancing mental health care using state-of-the-art techniques to help patients get custom treatment that works. That’s why our team often recommends genetic testing as a tool to help guide treatment. Here’s how it works.
People often think that certain conditions -- mental and physical -- can be treated with a one
size fits all approach. This, however, isn't completely true. This is because the medications and doses that work for one patient may or may not work for another.
That means in certain cases, it can take quite a while to test different medications and different doses before determining the combination that works best for you. And in the meantime, you’re left to suffer with your symptoms.
This is where pharmacogenomics comes in. Pharmacogenomics “drills down” to the genetic causes or “triggers” of mental health issues, which allows providers to make educated predictions about which medications will work and at which doses, all based on your unique genetic makeup.
The overarching goals of pharmacogenomics are to help patients get the maximum benefit from medication therapy while also limiting the side effects that might be associated with a specific medicine.
With mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, your genetic makeup can determine how the disorder manifests as well as what treatment is most likely to provide a benefit.
Like many medical ailments, a lot of mental health maladies are governed by genes. Of course, simply having a gene doesn’t mean you’ll also have a specific ailment. In most cases, it simply indicates a potentially elevated risk.
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are good examples. Also known as the “breast cancer genes,” BRCA1 and BRCA — both of which everyone has — actually work to prevent breast cancer in most people.
But sometimes, a gene gets damaged or altered, and when that happens, there’s an increased chance that they’ll work “in reverse” and make breast cancer more likely. Doctors can use genetic testing to look for these gene mutations to assess a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
At the same time, many medications work better with people who have certain genes or gene byproducts, such as enzymes. For instance, some medications are used by your body better — called metabolization — when you have plenty of a particular enzyme produced by a gene called CYP2D6.
Knowing your genetic profile can help determine if you have sufficient levels of the enzyme for your body to effectively metabolize the medication, or if you might wind up with unwanted — and potentially dangerous — side effects, such as toxicity.
Although pharmacogenomics doesn’t provide guaranteed results, genetic testing can provide a lot of very useful information to guide therapy decisions. Knowing your genetic profile can help our team make much more educated decisions about the course of your care, including what therapies to try and what doses to use.
Perhaps most importantly for you, genetic testing may provide treatment solutions faster, so you don’t have to suffer needlessly while waiting to find the “right combination.” To learn more about genetic testing and whether it’s a good choice to guide your therapy, call 310-982-7003 to book an appointment with the team at Bowman Medical Group today.