Can a disorder be congenital but not hereditary? 

Quick answer:

Yes, a disorder can be congenital but not hereditary. A hereditary disorder is acquired through the genes of one or both parents. A congenital disorder may be caused by factors other than genes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Typically, both a congenital condition and a hereditary condition are something a person is born with. However, a hereditary condition is not the only kind of congenital condition.

Hereditary conditions are conditions inherited from one or both biological parents. Examples include cystic fibrosis and factor V Leiden thrombophilia. In order for the baby to have the condition, one or both parents must have passed on the requisite genes to the child.

Congenital conditions are present at birth, but they can stem from a variety of causes. For example, a baby born with microcephaly and jaundice may have been exposed to cytomegalovirus (CMV) in utero.

CMV isn't hereditary—you can't get it from the genes of either one of your parents. Rather, it's an infection that the mother may contract during pregnancy that passes to the child.

Some children exposed to CMV in utero develop serious medical conditions, while others don't. Those conditions are congenital because the baby is born with them, but they aren't hereditary.

Another example is brain damage caused by hypoxia in utero. Again, the condition is congenital: The infant is born with brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen during gestation. However, it's not hereditary. The parents' genes didn't cause the lack of oxygen; some other condition, like heart disease in the mother, led to insufficient oxygen reaching the fetus.

While many hereditary conditions can be considered congenital, not all congenital conditions are hereditary. Congenital conditions can be caused by factors that have nothing to do with which parental genes got passed to the child.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial