Ask an Educator: Genetic Epilepsy - Epilepsy Queensland

Ask an Educator

"What is genetic epilepsy?"

There are many different ways in which someone can acquire epilepsy. Around half of those diagnosed will never find out the cause of their epilepsy. The other half may come to find out that their epilepsy was the result of a brain injury, an autoimmune disorder, metabolic issues or it could be directly linked to their genetics.

What are genetics?

When we think of one’s genetics, we are talking about their genes – a unit of heredity which is passed from parents to their children containing the information needed to specify certain physical and biological characteristics. These characteristics can include things like skin colour and height, and some genes can result in a higher likelihood of seizures.

How are genes linked to epilepsy?

Genes play a significant role in epilepsy, particularly in drug-resistant epilepsy, since genes inherited or passed on from parents to their children can result in individuals experiencing seizures and subsequently receiving an epilepsy diagnosis.  Therefore, some types of epilepsy may run in families.

Some inherited metabolic conditions or chromosomal disorders may also increase one’s risk of experiencing seizures because the body’s normal function is disrupted due to missing or mutated genes. This means that genetic disorders can contribute to causing epilepsy as a single condition or can result in a syndrome or disorder that affects the body in different ways.

While some people may have a family history of epilepsy, some types of epilepsy do not run in families, but they may still be a combination genetic and environmental factors.

If any of these situations are seen in an individual, they are said to have a genetic epilepsy.

Is it necessary to have genetic testing?

In some instances, it may be useful to get a more accurate diagnosis (if that has not occurred), to enable better management of the condition.

What do I do if I have questions about genetic epilepsy?

With any medical questions, especially ones related to your own personal circumstances, you should consult your doctor or neurologist in the first instance. If you would like more information on genetic epilepsy and what that may mean for you or your loved one, our Living Well Team are here to provide support.

Epilepsy Queensland