Epilepsy Talk

Is Epilepsy Inherited? | April 23, 2017

Just because you have a parent, sibling, cousin or aunt who has epilepsy doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have it also.

In fact, if you have a close relative with epilepsy, the chance of you having epilepsy is only about 2-5%, depending on the specific type of epilepsy.

The risk in the general population is about 1-2%.

On the other hand, there is a 92-98% chance for the close relative of someone with epilepsy to NOT have the same condition!

So, even though the risk in families with epilepsy is higher than in the general population, most people with epilepsy do not have any relatives with seizures, and the great majority of parents with epilepsy do not have children with epilepsy.

Not everyone who carries genes making them more likely to develop epilepsy will do so. Even if the genes are passed on, not every generation in a family will have seizures. And so, like diabetes, epilepsy may skip a generation.

While epilepsy cannot currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away. One study found that children with idiopathic epilepsy, or epilepsy with an unknown cause, had a 68 to 92% chance of becoming seizure-free by 20 years after their diagnosis.

The odds of becoming seizure-free are not as good for adults, or for children with severe epilepsy syndromes. But it is possible that seizures may decrease or even stop over time. This is more likely if the epilepsy has been well-controlled by medication or if the person has had epilepsy surgery.

The Genetics of Epilepsy

Clinical tests suggest that genetic abnormalities may be some of the most important factors contributing to epilepsy. Some types of epilepsy have been traced to an abnormality in a specific gene.

Researchers estimate that more than 500 genes could play a role in this disorder.

More than 20 different syndromes with epilepsy as a main feature have been mapped to specific genes.

However, it is increasingly clear that, for many forms of epilepsy, genetic abnormalities play only a partial role, perhaps by increasing a person’s susceptibility to seizures that are triggered by an environmental or external factor.

Like photosensitivity. (Did you know that 25% of people with primary generalized epilepsy are photosensitive?)

While abnormal genes sometimes cause epilepsy, they also may influence the disorder in more subtle ways…

Genetic Testing

For example, one study showed that many people with epilepsy have an abnormally active version of a gene that increases resistance to drugs. This may help explain why anticonvulsant drugs do not work for some people.

Genes also may control other aspects of the body’s response to medications and each person’s susceptibility to seizures, or seizure threshold.

Abnormalities in the genes that control neuronal migration – a critical step in brain development – can lead to areas of misplaced or abnormally formed neurons in the brain that can cause epilepsy.

And in some cases, genes may contribute to development of epilepsy even in people with no family history of the disorder.

These people may have a newly developed abnormality, or mutation, in an epilepsy-related gene.


To subscribe to Epilepsytalk.com and get the latest articles, go to the bottom box of the right column and click on “Follow.”











  1. I always wondered if there was an epilepsy gean. My cousin was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 13 and had grand mall seizures. Same thing happened to my daughter.


    Comment by Gwen — April 23, 2017 @ 10:54 AM

    • Well, it can end up a matter of genetics. If you want to be positively sure, genetic testing is the route.
      The question is: once you know the person has the gene, what do you do to prepare yourself?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 23, 2017 @ 10:59 AM

  2. mine was not genetic, mine was from a high fever 109 twice.


    Comment by Michele Metzger — April 23, 2017 @ 11:31 AM

  3. Nobody from either my moms or dads side ever had epilepsy, or even no what a seizure was like to have one. Just me from the last 5 generations before my time, and nobody of my 1st, 2nd or 3rd cousins, older my age or younger has had seizures either. So I say vaccination shots did it for me at 5 months old in 1960.


    Comment by C D — April 23, 2017 @ 12:55 PM

    • Could be.
      Nobody in my family had epilepsy either. But I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 12 years old. And then I was treated like a pariah. 😦


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 23, 2017 @ 1:12 PM

  4. Very informative article & I am the surviving Fraternal Twin Brother & had wondered if this may have been the root cause for his condition & sadly passing of SUDEP.

    I am wondering if there was any chance that he was in a very serious motorcycle accident when we were in high school & he had major head trauma, face lacerations & loss of teeth if this could have been the start of his epilepsy at the young age of 18?

    Phylis, many many thanks for all of your tireless research & countless postings that really educate. You’re a true BLESSING to so many & I AM very thankful.

    Enjoy your Sunday.

    AJ Johnson
    Ontario, California

    P.S..Allan, my Fraternal Twin & I are Proudly U S Air Force Veterans & I lost him Nov. 24, 2014 & MISS him DEARLY.


    Comment by AL Johnson "AJ" — April 23, 2017 @ 1:43 PM

    • AJ, I think the major head trauma your twin suffered probably contributed to Traumatic Brain Injury — which could have had a lot to do with his seizures.

      You might be interested in this article:

      Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy



      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 23, 2017 @ 2:49 PM

      • Hi Phylis & thank you for furnishing that article on TBIs & some of the statistics associated with them. Every day I learn so much & you have touched my life in a very meaningful way & I thank you sincerely for that.

        Take Care,

        HOT….Ontario, California


        Comment by AL Johnson "AJ" — April 23, 2017 @ 3:01 PM

  5. I like for someone,, neurologist ”who knows” or anyone, say what brain chemical/s is there a lack of, that regulates bot glutamate & glucose, along with the serotonin, dopamine, and other amino acids that all effect the neurotransmitters of the brain, Taurine is to help both glutamate & glucose, but my brain could not tollerate 1/3, 500mgs a day of 1500 that my neurologist said to me was safe to take Taurine, & I paid that price later too. So is 100, 50 or 10 mgs of Taurine is all I need ? Here is where I believe many of us with seizures can be of great help with any kind of seizures, that any of us can have where when the brain works good for a month or more then suddenly BOOM !!!!! A seizure happens, & it seems like no reason for it, other than MSG’s ASPARTAME’s, NITRATES, CARRAGEENAN, GUM’s & etc… caused it,, something has to STOP this for being a major concern for all of us who have seizures, as we ALL basically eat the same foods & drink the same drinks, in out lives when we do not THINK what we are eating. I only eat that 5% I know that is safe for me to eat & I know that is not 100% balanced out with all the things I need to stay seizure free forever.


    Comment by C D — April 23, 2017 @ 1:55 PM

  6. My mom had them from a fall is how she got them when she was a little child. Had grand mal ones. Later down the road she out grew hers. I was 12 and at a girl scout camp for fun and they said there I had some type of seizure and sent me to the hospital to get checked out and sent me back to camp cause they thought I would be okay and later something else must of happen and I don’t remember cause I woke up and found myself in the hospital. They did several test and later told me I had epilepsy. I thought I might of caught it from my mom cause she still had them then. They told me I didn’t and it might of been from an infection I had. Later down the road I had to get a VNS stimulator to help me cause meds would work and also in my late 20’s and early 30’shad to have brain surgery to help me out. I’m doing better now these days and have one once in a few months.


    Comment by Corina — April 23, 2017 @ 10:03 PM

  7. I’ve had epilepsy since I was a baby. I’m now 52 and still take medication to control it. My mother who has passed away had epilepsy and my youngest son also has epilepsy. I had heard prior it was not genetic but there must be some link there.


    Comment by bstelma — April 24, 2017 @ 9:21 PM

    • I’d say it’s very likely. If you had a genetic test (which at this point is not necessary), I bet something would show up.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 25, 2017 @ 8:24 AM

  8. Everything is in your genes, and i’m not talking about your pants. :0 Your genes knows what type of cancer you will die from, they know what type of hair you will have, they know everything there is to know about you because you are your genes. I’ve read that doc have created a tool to diagnose your ailment just by studying your genes. Although there are some patent disputes going on but soon this will be.

    As we know traits are passed down by the genes we acquire from our parents, therefor a malfunctioning or deformed code in the gene that might cause epilepsy may also be inherited.

    As for me, my seizures were brought on by damage to my brain, caused by a brain tumor and the surgery to remove it. No one in the family that i know had seizures, or brain tumors that i know of, at least on my moms side. Don’t know much about my dads side.

    Keep up the great work Phylis,



    Comment by Zolt — April 26, 2017 @ 9:53 PM

    • Hi Zolt, Great to hear from you.

      I agree. I think genetic testing is just in its infancy. And, for better or worse, the future will hold more in store.

      (Loved your first line!!!)


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 27, 2017 @ 8:03 AM

  9. My father had an Uncle who I never meet. He had died before I was born. Old age. He had Epilepsy. I do not know what kind or how bad it was for him. He is the only other person besides myself that I am aware of to have Epilepsy in my family. I have wondered a little about it being passed down, but I just figured it was a case of bad luck for me. I was diagnosed at the age of 5. All I can say is thank God for Keppra. It has helped me a lot. actually weaning off of other meds.


    Comment by Lori — April 27, 2017 @ 10:55 AM

    • The bad news is that the epilepsy gene could have been in your family. (Although without genetic testing, it’s difficult to tell.)
      But it’s great news that Keppra works so well for you and has helped wean you off of other drugs.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 27, 2017 @ 11:40 AM

  10. It runs in my family. My moms cousin had it. Then, my oldest brother. His stopped. I am the youngest of four. Now, my oldest brother’s middle son has them.


    Comment by Kathleen Benshoff — April 30, 2017 @ 12:39 AM

  11. Well, I guess you don’t need genetic testing to prove it’s genetic.

    I’m so sorry. It’s a lousy deck of cards, to be dealt.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 30, 2017 @ 5:06 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

    View Full Profile →

    Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,295 other followers

    Follow Epilepsy Talk on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: