I2. Inherited heart conditions

Inherited heart conditions

An inherited heart disease is one which has been passed on through your parents’ genes.

Inherited cardiac conditions (ICC) is an umbrella term covering a wide variety of relatively rare diseases of the heart. They are also referred to as genetic cardiac conditions.

ICCs are caused by a fault – also known as a mutation – in one or more of our genes. If someone has a faulty gene, there’s a 50/50 chance it can be passed on to your children.

The effects of these conditions on you and your family can be enormous. These conditions can – in some cases – become life-threatening. Around 500 young people die every year in the UK as a result of a genetic heart disorder.

These conditions do not always have symptoms, so you can be unaware you have the conditions. Sadly, this can sometimes mean that the first time a family is aware of being affected is after a sudden cardiac death (SCD).

However, great improvements are being made in the detection of ICCs and also how you can live with your condition. There are effective treatments which allow you to lead a normal life.

Family history

It’s very important to draw a medical family tree with an appropriate health professional. This can help to “paint a picture” to see if you have – or have had – any other family members with the same condition. The family tree is sometimes known as a pedigree.

Signs and symptoms

Sometimes people don’t experience many signs and symptoms, but the main symptoms of familial arrhythmia are:

  • palpitations
  • fainting or blackouts (also known as syncope or “near” faint)

The majority of children and young adults with syncope have a normal heart disease and no major heart rhythm problem.

However, it’s really important to speak to your GP or health professional if you – or a member of your family – have suffered unexplained fainting, especially if it’s happened more than once.

Different inherited heart conditions

Familial cardiomyopathies

These include:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
  • idiopathic or familial Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
  • restrictive cardiomyopathy

Familial arrhythmias 

These include:

  • Long QT syndrome (LQTS)
  • Brugada syndrome
  • Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia (CPVT)
  • Short QT Syndrome (SQTS)

Marfan syndrome

Marfan syndrome is an inherited – or genetic – condition that affects the body’s connective tissues. Connective tissues provide support and structure to other tissue and organs.

There is a 50/50 chance that someone with Marfan syndrome will have a child with the condition, but Marfan syndrome is relatively rare – around 1 in 5,000 people have the syndrome.

Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS)

This is a condition which means there was an unexplained underlying familial heart rhythm that was not detected until there was an investigation following a death.