Is Epilepsy Hereditary

Epilepsy Information 2012

Is Epilepsy Hereditary - Yes and No

“Is epilepsy hereditary?” is a common question in many families where one or both parents used to or are still occasionally suffering from mild epilepsy bouts. This question springs from observed cases where there seem to be a close correlation between epilepsy in children when taken in the context of the family histories of both parents.

A definitive study, however, conducted by many reputable medical institutions and validated by many others conclusively say that the answer to the question “Is epilepsy hereditary?” is a big and resounding “No!” Still, this does not fully resolve nor eliminate some of the concerns associated with epilepsy as a potentially passed down illness.

For example, consider the following relevant medical statistics:

In the case of symptomatic epilepsy, or those with known epileptic causes, family members have an increased risk of developing epilepsy simply because a family member has already developed an induced epileptic episode. The risk, while small at only 2%, is still 100% higher than those in general populations where the inherent risk for contracting epilepsy due to known causes is 1%.
For idiopathic cases, or those where the cause remains unknown, a child carries a 4% risk of contracting epilepsy if one of the parent carries the idiopathic variety. When both parents have idiopathic epilepsy at some point in their young years, documented risks increase to 30% which represents a 3000% increase in risk factors versus normal, unexposed populations.

However, even if the answer to “Is epilepsy hereditary?” remains to be a big no, there are definite factors that families need to watch out for to ensure that children do not contract the illness from both the idiopathic and symptomatic perspective. Doctors term these factors as a “pre-disposition” to contracting the disease which means that some persons are more likely to develop epileptic symptoms than others when exposed to certain stimuli.

As a common example in many medical circles, consider two individuals who are exposed to a minor accident, say, one where both are hit on the head. The individual with epileptic histories in the family is more likely to develop epileptic symptoms than he who has not had any epileptic histories in his family tree. This pre-disposition does not automatically result to a manifestation of the illness, which is the definition of a hereditary illness, but it does raise the risks and behooves one to take extra care to make sure the risks are not made into reality.

Common precursors of epileptic episodes in those with family epileptic histories include congenital problems, trauma such as the example of being hit in the head, brain hemorrhages, brain tumors and even excessive alcohol consumption. It needs no repetition that even if the answer to “is epilepsy hereditary” is “no”, a person can just as easily develop epilepsy from these precursors.

Epilepsy is definitely not a disease to be trifled with and even though it has been conclusively answered that - is epilepsy hereditary - is only a perception but not reality, care must still be taken to prevent it from manifesting. Always take care of yourself, value your health, and stay away from dangerous activities that can potentially trigger the onset of an epileptic episode.