Women and Epilepsy

Epilepsy Information 2012

The Relationship Between Women and Epilepsy

What is there with women and epilepsy? The female gender and the illness epilepsy are often linked together because of a certain type of epilepsy that happens only in women – catamenial epilepsy. Catamenial epilepsy is a seizure that happens while a woman is having her menstrual cycle. This type of seizure disorder increases the risk of a woman experiencing seizure episodes at the time of menopause when female hormones are chaotic and unpredictable.

The Relationship Between Women and Epilepsy

A lot of women who suffer from a seizure disorder often experience an episode during their menstrual period. Due to these circumstances, the endocrine system or female hormones are the primary suspects of medical experts as to why seizures happen during menstruation (catamenial epilepsy).

In a study done by Andrew Herzog, M.D., MSc, and his colleagues – they proposed that insufficient progesterone levels (due to anovulatory cycles) may be connected to the increase in the number of seizures.

Backed by reliable research data and findings, Dr. Herzog stands firm in his statement that there exists a reciprocal relationship between hormones and seizures. Dr. Herzog explained the biologic mechanism which causes this phenomenon by saying that the temporo-limbic system (the brain area where most epilepsy in adults originate) has a direct connection to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland, which also is the organ responsible for the regulation of ovaries. Therefore, in anovulatory cycles (menstrual cycles wherein no egg cell or ovum was released), the hormone estrogen is present but there is no progesterone. Unfortunately, estrogen is epileptogenic, which means - it can induce a seizure.

These findings clearly show that the link between women and epilepsy are the hormones at play in a woman’s menstrual cycle. The findings of Dr. Herzog’s study can greatly influence the next generation of drugs used to combat catamenial seizures in women. It also strengthens the use of progesterone treatment for catamenial epilepsy.

Steps for Women to Take

After the link between women and epilepsy was identified to very likely be the progesterone hormone, the next role of health practitioners was to instruct women as to what should they do to combat it. Dr. Robert Greene, a reproductive endocrinologist, stated that women should track their menstrual cycles and seizure episodes in one calendar. She suggests that women with epilepsy who have cycles longer than three months and those who bleed excessively during their period should consult their obstetrician gynecologist at once.

Menstrual disorders are common in women with epilepsy. Around thirty-six percent of women suffering from epilepsy have problems with their menstrual cycle. Thus, regulating the menstrual cycle seems to be a promising solution to the problem of women and epilepsy. Progesterone treatment and developing ways of controlling hormonal imbalances in women may then be the next prospective study of medical experts.