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Epilepsy and Hormones: Is There a Connection?

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Is there a connection between hormones and seizures? Scientists say there is. But first, let’s define hormones and what they do.

Hormones are chemical substances found all throughout the body. They influence everything from growth to your menstrual cycle. Men and women have a total of three sex hormones that scientists have pegged as the culprits: estrogen, androgen, and progesterone. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the primary job of sex hormones is to control and maintain our reproductive system. Even though they can also help develop and maintain muscle, bone strength, emotions, and behavior as well.

What’s the Connection?

Research shows that the female hormones estrogen and progesterone respond to brain cells, particularly ones found in the temporal lobe of the brain. This is the location where some seizures start. Estrogen can agitate this part of the brain, and as a result, the individual will suffer a seizure. In direct contrast, natural progesterone – as brought out by the Epilepsy Foundation - can stop or prevent seizures in some women.

Even though not all seizures are caused by hormones, they still can influence their frequency. For example, at the onset of puberty (definitely a time of hormonal changes), some females experience a “switch” in the type of seizure they have – one type stops while another type may start. Or it may be that the number or pattern of their seizures alters around mid-cycle (ovulation) or at the beginning of their menstrual period. This condition is called “catamenial epilepsy.”

Findings also indicate that women who have seizures coming from the temporal lobe often have more reproductive disorders. They may include: polycystic ovaries, early menopause and irregular (or no) ovulation. Remember, the temporal lobe strongly influences the areas of the brain that regulates hormones (hypothalamus and the pituitary gland). It is felt that the seizures disturb the normal activity of hormone production, thereby; causing some reproductive disorders.

What You Can Do

It is important to find out if your seizures are due to hormonal changes. Why?

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I started having seizures when I was a Freshman in college (about 18 years old). It wasn't until I was nearly 30 years old, and in the process of changing neurologists, that it even dawned on me that my seizures might be hormonal-related. After charting when my seizures occurred, my doctor and I finally figured out that they were related to my cycles, and I began taking an extra 100mg Dilantin a week before my period and during to prevent any seizures. This seemed to work until I started that wonderful phase of a woman's life, they call Menopause. I haven't had a period in nearly a year (I'm 47 years old), not have I had in nine months. For those that don't think hormones have anything to do with other than sex, they're wrong (at least in my body!!). I continue taking my meds (600 mg Dilantin) each day and see my doctor, and pray that I may be done with having any seizures.

October 27, 2009 - 4:44pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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