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Epilepsy

Genetic epilepsy

05/12/2009

Question:

My mother had grand mal epilepsy she died in my teen years. She had 5 siblings without epilepsy. Both my chidren developed grand mal upon waking in their teens and have recently found out that 3 other cousins of same generation to my kids have epilepsy too. It skipped one genration completely and has developed in 5 kids of second generation, what is the likelihood of the other kids in this generation deveoping it as they reach teens? And will it skip another generation or where might it develop again?

Answer:

You have an excellent question, but the answer is quite complex. We do not completely understand the precise way that most epilepsy is inherited. There are many different types of epilepsy (known as epilepsy syndromes) and each may have a different type of inheritance. It appears most types of epilepsy are inherited in a `complex` way, meaning it is not the usual autosomal dominant or recessive. There are probably several different genes for each syndrome, and you have to have some special combination of these genes to have epilepsy.

From a practical point of view, your family members may be more likely to have epilepsy than the children of someone without epilepsy, but the risk will still be low. For example, the risk of epilepsy in the general population is about 1 in 200 people; your children may have a risk of 1 in 20 or 1 in 50. The actual risk will depend on what exact epilepsy syndrome you have.

For more information:

Go to the Epilepsy health topic, where you can:

Response by:

David M Ficker, MD David M Ficker, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati