Overview

Genetic testing involves examining your DNA, the chemical database that carries instructions for your body's functions. Genetic testing can reveal changes (mutations) in your genes that may cause illness or disease.

Although genetic testing can provide important information for diagnosing, treating and preventing illness, there are limitations. For example, if you're a healthy person, a positive result from genetic testing doesn't always mean you will develop a disease. On the other hand, in some situations, a negative result doesn't guarantee that you won't have a certain disorder.

Talking to your doctor, a medical geneticist or a genetic counselor about what you will do with the results is an important step in the process of genetic testing.

Genome sequencing

When genetic testing doesn't lead to a diagnosis but a genetic cause is still suspected, some facilities offer genome sequencing — a process for analyzing a sample of DNA taken from your blood.

Everyone has a unique genome, made up of the DNA in all of a person's genes. This complex testing can help identify genetic variants that may relate to your health. This testing is usually limited to just looking at the protein-encoding parts of DNA called the exome.