NF1 is a hereditary or genetic disorder, due to an alteration (mutation) in the NF1 gene. All people have two copies of the NF1 gene, one they get from their mother and one they get from their father. When one copy of the NF1 gene is altered, it is no longer able to work properly and this results in NF1.
Children with NF1 may either inherit NF1 from a parent with NF1 or they may be the first person in their family to be diagnosed with NF1. Half of all children with NF1 inherit an altered NF1 gene from a parent who has NF1. There are times when a parent is so mildly affected that they may never have been diagnosed with NF1. When neither parent is known to have NF1, it is important that each parent be thoroughly examined by a physician familiar with NF1, to determine whether either of the parents has NF1.
The other half of children with NF1 are the first person in their family to be affected. In this case, neither parent has NF1. The genetic change that causes NF1 in these children is a new alteration in the NF1 gene that likely arose in the sperm or egg cell that produced the child. This change is not caused by anything either parent may have done or not done before, during or after pregnancy. When neither parent has NF1, the chance of having another child with NF1 is very low.
If a parent has NF1, the chance of having another child with NF1 is 50-50 for each and every future pregnancy. Regardless of whether a person with NF1 is the first one in the family to be affected or whether the condition has been present for many generations, all persons with NF1 have a 50% chance of having a child with NF1 for each and every future pregnancy.
Genetic or DNA testing for NF1 is currently available. A physician or genetic counselor can provide additional information about the availability of such testing.