Is Epilepsy Inherited?

What You Need to Know About Epilepsy

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While there are certain medical conditions that are associated with developing epilepsy, you might wonder if this condition is inherited.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disorder that is characterized by uncontrolled and disorganized communication between nerve cells in the brain. When this occurs, seizures can occur. Seizures can come on at any age, in any ethnic group and can occur in a variety of conditions, including a stroke, a fever, or certain metabolic conditions.

When seizures happen repetitively, you are diagnosed with epilepsy.

However, in some cases, epilepsy can be inherited from a parent, and scientists are in the process of trying to determine the different genetic abnormalities associated with epilepsy in order to have a better understanding of what happens during some seizures and possible future treatments of this.

Technology Advancements

Due to the advancement of technology, our understanding of this disorder and active research, scientists and clinicians have identified several genes that could classify epilepsy as an inherited disorder. These mutated genes include defects in various channels involved in transporting chemicals used to help areas in the brain communicate with one another. The defects in these genes could contribute the abnormal communication between neurons in the brain that cause seizures to occur. The anticonvulsant medications currently available to help you manage your seizures target these specific areas in the brain involved with communication.

Causes of Epilepsy

There are many causes of epilepsy, and a connection has been shown between children with Down syndrome and epilepsy. Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic abnormality that is characterized by the presence of an additional chromosome 21. Children with this disorder are faced with multiple organ abnormalities, including characteristic facial features, heart abnormalities, gastrointestinal problems and an increased risk of leukemia.

The majority of individuals older than the age of 50 with Down syndrome may also have symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s disease or a decline in mental function.

Ways to Cope With Epilepsy

Learning how to cope with your epilepsy is just as important as its treatment. Epilepsy will have an effect on your daily life, and it's important for you to face that head-on so that you can better manage your condition.

While everyone copes with their epilepsy differently, here are some helpful tips that can help you better understand and manage your epilepsy:

  • Learn everything about your condition
  • Be open with your healthcare provider
  • Find an epilepsy support group
  • Keep a journal of your symptoms
  • Take your medications regularly


Wallace R. Mutations in GABA receptor genes cause human epilepsy. Lancet Neurol 2002;1:212.

Mulley JC, Scheffer IE, Petrou S, et al. Channelopathies as a genetic cause of epilepsy. Curr Opinion Neurol 2003;16:171-176.