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Thursday, May 5, 2016
Is Epilepsy Genetic?
In Genetic Epilepsy, will I carry the gene through my kids and grandkids sense I have Epilepsy? Or do my sisters have a chance to carry the gene even if they don`t have Epilepsy?
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 children or grandchildren 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. With the information we have from the Human Genome Project and ongoing studies like those at the University of Cincinnati, in 5 or so years I may be able to give you a much more precise answer. The epilepsy foundation (epilepsyfoundation.org) has updated information on new discoveries in epilepsy genetics and a site that you as a patient can register on if you`d like to volunteer for studies on epilepsy genetics.
Michael Privitera, MD
Professor of Neurology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati