Genetic Factors and Heredity
People with first-degree relatives (parents or siblings) who have epilepsy are at increased risk of developing seizures themselves. A family history of epilepsy may be considered a risk factor for epilepsy in the same way that brain injury or prior meningitis is a risk factor. However, while some epilepsy appears to be directly inherited, the risk does not follow classic Mendelian principles.
Brain function—from cell membrane to level of neurotransmitter substances to other biochemical mechanisms—is controlled by individual genes that, if damaged or mutant, may lead to seizures. The search is on for genes that may be directly linked to a specific type of epilepsy. Recent discoveries in this area include a gene associated with progressive myoclonic epilepsy, and the gene for Dravet Syndrome.
There is a study called the Phenome/Genome Project that studies how genetics affect epilepsy. To learn more about this study or find out how to participate, click here.