Epilepsy Talk

Is Epilepsy Inherited? | January 12, 2019

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.


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  1. It can be as much as 50% depending on the type. It’s passed from the parent to the children and can skip from 1-3 generations. Mine was passed from my grandfather to my mother and then to me.


    Comment by Jeanine Bunt — January 12, 2019 @ 12:09 PM

  2. I am the only one on both sides of my family who has had a seizure condition/s. Started at 5 months old, & still going after over 58 years. Nobody can not tell me that there is not 1 doctor of the many neurologists who can say & give to me the answer I have been wanting to have for over 50 years of this hell I have been living with seizures. Doesn’t matter of they are petil mal or GRAND MAL no seizure affects an neurologists life or anyone else for that matter. There is no interests nor has there ever been any interests for my brain to be 1 of many millions who have NO seizures. Seizures in my life means MONEY TO THEM, but they are money costing in more ways than 1 to where MONEY means nothing, if you never can have FREEDOM & PEACE OF MIND that seizures are only a memory & not a future life of more fear, which I know is False Evidence Appearing Real, when you believe what the rest of the world says about you & these neurologists who have all the answers for you. In PSALMS 103 God said I am who heals all diseases & illnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by CD — January 12, 2019 @ 5:09 PM

    • CD, we all resent and hate having seizures.

      And yes, BIG Med does little to help.

      But there are so many ways you can get a seizure disorder.

      Almost too many to count.

      And who cares about counting?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 13, 2019 @ 10:12 AM

  3. I had epilepsy. About 30 cousins. Had 2cousins with epilepsy. One died when she was 6.the other died when she was47.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Lance minnis — January 12, 2019 @ 6:18 PM

  4. It also ran in our family! My uncle, my mom, my brother, and myself. Also had some cousins that had problems with seizures. It’s hard to tell, because everyone was keeping it a family secret! Also had an aunt on my dad’s side that had seizures. We must have the genetic kind! I didn’t have kid’s because of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mag Miller — January 14, 2019 @ 3:17 AM

    • I can understand you not wanting to have kids, but perhaps if you were genetically tested, you might find a more positive answer.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 14, 2019 @ 9:28 AM

    • I have genetic epilepsy, family members have had seizures on both sides. In fact, both of my parents became epileptic in their senior years. I would hate to think that I may not exist if they had done so at a younger age. I now have a perfectly healthy 32 year old son. Don’t let epilepsy stop you from the joys of parenthood. It is worrisome, but so worth it. Grandparenting is even better!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Lisa — January 14, 2019 @ 11:28 AM

  5. i have epilepsy and my grandmother on dads side and his brother had it..petit mal or simple partial is what i have.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by jeanette — April 29, 2019 @ 12:40 PM

  6. You might want to consider genetic testing if you’re thinking of having a child.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 29, 2019 @ 1:10 PM

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    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.

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    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 →

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