Epilepsy Talk

Is Your Epilepsy Inherited?  | November 11, 2021

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.

Research is currently ongoing in many medical centers and laboratories around the world to help understand the role of genetics in the development of epilepsy.

One long term goal of this research is precision medicine. This means individuals with genetic epilepsies would be treated with approaches specifically targeted to their genetic diagnosis.

To subscribe to Epilepsy Talk and get the latest articles by email, simply go to the bottom box of the right column and click on “Follow.”









  1. Reblogged this on Ken's Devotions.


    Comment by Kenneth — November 11, 2021 @ 11:12 AM

  2. It’s a very confusing subject. My aunt had seizures from ages 8 to 11. My cousin (not this aunt’s daughter) has had epilepsy since she was a kid and she’s 64 now. I have two more cousins who are sisters in another family who developed epilepsy in their 40’s.

    I’ll leave it at that. I don’t think anyone inherited it but who knows.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ed Lugge — November 11, 2021 @ 1:26 PM

  3. What I have found in this topic is that it might bring up those things that many people do not wish to talk about. Since I am stubborn and keep talking about epilepsy, family members approach me about what they know.

    For example, the grandfather I never knew died in the “State Psychiatric Ward.” That is the description that I was always given. I was also always told that he was hit in the head by a swing when he was 6. Maybe he was or maybe not. Eventually it came out that he had epilepsy and was ultimately hospitalized because he could not be controlled.

    Additionally, one of my relatives was a part of the Westward Expansion. He never made it out to California during the 1800s. His obituary, along with biographical information, did record that he died on his way across the United States of “an epileptic fit.”

    Finally, it has just come out that my father’s cousin is 90 and has epilepsy.

    Maybe my family and other relatives can talk about it now. After all, epilepsy is a medical condition and not a shameful condition “that we just don’t talk about.” I wonder what else might come out pertaining to epilepsy and biology.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by George Choyce — November 11, 2021 @ 4:11 PM

  4. In my family, no one would say the “E” world. I was the one and only freak. A pariah.

    Not that I wish someone before me had the poor luck of epilepsy. But as you might say, with a little conversation and awareness, it might have paved the way for me.

    I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 11, 2021 @ 4:35 PM

  5. It’s possible my grandmother did. She had bouts of crippling anxiety and was afraid to go places alone. It wasn’t until after I was diagnosed with partial epilepsy (she had passed away a long time before that) that I realized my episodes were like hers. She was always taking Xanax which never helped. But there’s no way to know all the full details of her experience now, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hetty Eliot — November 11, 2021 @ 9:17 PM

  6. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Patti Swistak — November 12, 2021 @ 12:22 AM

  7. Hetty, the journey is often as painful as the destination.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 12, 2021 @ 9:48 AM

  8. Yes, it is for me. It jumps generations in my family. I’m the lucky one that inherited Epilepsy, and the severe ignorance that goes with it.
    I know that this was a 2021 posting… I was in hospital for 2 severely bloody Epileptic seizures over this past June 3-4th weekend and I’m still getting the same, “she was drunk wasn’t she!!” When I return back… And Cybercrimes that make my injuries hurt worse.
    They don’t care if I live or die because my can’t be bothered to do …
    Neighbor’s have been going through my parent’s house as if they are rummaging through belongings that they never had before my parents passed away young. Before the age I am now!!
    I am/was taken advantage of because my disabilities and Epilepsy called a lot of horrendous names, one because I fractured my ankle from exercising?? WOW!!!
    Damn you exercises!!🙄😒😼
    I had to wear a stablization boot which was helping my foot in entire! Especially when I had been wearing Doc Martens for over 20+ plus years that helped even when volunteering as much as I did… Then My Epileptic seizures get worse than ever before! I had never been near illicit drugs or smoke before the second apartment… The next apartments!!

    My neurologist was almost impossible to get in touch with as he has been here…

    I’ll just put out there since I’ve been in this city by force I’ve had my belongings, wallets, my photo identification cards stolen up until I know of December 2020, I was pick pocketed when I was unconscious from an Epileptic seizure!
    The police officer(?) took it as a joke…

    All this because some piece of dirt broke into my 2nd apartment when I first put boxes in and I had to leave my fur baby alone for what I thought was going to be a few hours to get some self care for us and I ended in the hospital for Pneumonia! Someone tried to trash my apartment that I was trying to not leave. No one would listen to I want to break my lease and move back and no one “noticed” me having Epileptic seizures by the superintendent’s door that was open, and there was a security camera facing my direction!
    Why didn’t they see and pay attention and listen to me?!?!


    Comment by Taima — June 7, 2022 @ 11:52 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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    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 free notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 3,266 other subscribers
    Follow Epilepsy Talk on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: