Epilepsy Talk

Hormonal Imbalances and Seizures in Women | November 25, 2019

Many women with epilepsy have asked their doctors about the connection between seizures and hormones, but not every woman has seen her concerns given the attention she’d hoped for.

Although it is not very well understood at this point, there are scientifically documented connections between seizures and hormones that not all physicians are educated about.

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical substances formed in organs and glands that travel through your body and through your bloodstream.

They control muscle growth, heart rate, hunger, the menstrual cycle and many other functions.

They generally don’t cause seizures, but can influence their occurrence.

Some women with epilepsy experience changes in their seizure patterns when their hormones are fluctuating.

There’s a dynamic relationship between hormones, brain function, and seizures.

The brain is the seat of the body’s hormones and regulates the release of the major sex hormones — estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

These hormones, in turn, provide feedback to the brain and control the amount of hormones released at different points in time.

Research has shown that seizure discharges in certain brain areas can alter the output of hormones from the brain, and sex hormones can influence how the brain works.

For example, estrogen has been shown to increase seizure activity, while progesterone can have anti-seizure effects.

Seizures that are most likely to be affected by hormonal changes are partial seizures that involve the temporal or frontal lobes of the brain.  

However, hormonal associations may also be seen with generalized seizures. 

The temporal and frontal areas of the brain are closely connected to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands of the brain, which control the release of hormones.

Seizure activity may influence levels of hormones in the body, and the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body can affect seizures.

And even though not all seizures are caused by hormones, they still can influence their frequency.

Is there a connection between seizures and hormones?

Yes.

Hormones are crucial systemic players and act at different sites of the entire body, including the brain.

The brain is not only the target of hormone action, but also serves as the “conductor” of the “neuro-endocrine symphony”.

Changes in neuronal activity, such as seizures in people with epilepsy, may affect hormonal regulation and secretion.

In turn, hormones modify susceptibility to develop seizures.

Also, antiepileptic drugs and hormones can have a direct interaction.

Hormones may alter seizure threshold, change the frequency and severity of seizures.

Are all seizures caused by hormone changes?

No.

Hormones generally do not cause seizures but can influence their occurrence.

For example, puberty is a time when hormones are stimulating body changes.

It is not unusual for certain kinds of seizures to disappear at puberty, while other seizure disorders may start at this time. 

Many women with epilepsy see changes in the number or the pattern of their seizures around the time of ovulation (mid-cycle), or just before and at the beginning of their menstrual periods.

This condition is called “catamenial epilepsy.”

What do the sex hormones do?

Sex hormones have several functions…

Primarily, they control and maintain our reproductive systems.

They also have an influence on muscle mass, bone strength, emotions, and behavior.

In fact, sex hormones begin to influence brain function before birth, as early as a month or two after conception!

Research shows that the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, act on certain brain cells, including those in the temporal lobe, a part of the brain where partial seizures often begin.

Estrogen excites these brain cells and can make seizures more likely to happen.

In contrast, natural progesterone can inhibit or prevent seizures in some women.

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.

How do I find out if I have hormone-related problems?

Women who have special concerns about seizures and hormones should obtain a referral to a specialist, either a neurologist or a neuroendocrinologist (a neurologist with training in hormone disorders and their effects on brain function).

If you suspect that hormones play a role in your seizures, talk to your physician or the nurse who helps monitor your seizures.

Blood tests of certain hormone levels and of your seizure medication may provide helpful information.

Additional tests, such as a pelvic ultrasound, may also be recommended to rule out other causes for menstrual irregularities.

Some suggestions:

1. Request a referral to a specialist. Some family doctors aren’t educated about the link between hormonal imbalances and seizures. A specialist will be better equipped to handle your concerns.

2. Track your seizure patterns. Many patients suspect a hormonal link to their seizures, but haven’t tracked the occurrences of those seizures. Keep a monthly log and track the date, time, length and frequency of your seizures.

3. Consider any recent hormonal changes. Before visiting a specialist, look for any hormonal patterns on your seizure log. This may include increased seizure frequency before your menstrual cycle or with the onset of menopause.

4. Pay attention to times of stress. Experiencing stress can trigger hormonal imbalances in your body. Chart times of stress and their effect on your seizures.

5. Explore treatment options. Although experimental, there are options for treating seizures caused by hormonal imbalances. Women can take progesterone supplements to reduce seizures. Also, some women find success by undergoing a hysterectomy, which eliminates the menstrual cycle and hormonal imbalance.

Awareness of how hormones can relieve or exacerbate seizure frequency and severity, as well as of how seizures and epilepsy may significantly affect reproductive and sexual function by interacting with hormone secretion and metabolism is key.

And identifying hormonal influences on seizure patterns may lead to a better understanding of treatment options for seizure control, which is important for optimal seizure management throughout a woman’s life.

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Resources:

https://www.epilepsy.com/living-epilepsy/women/all-women/hormones-and-epilepsy

https://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/guide/your-changing-hormones#1

https://www.epilepsy.com/living-epilepsy/women/all-women/hormones-and-epilepsy

http://www.cf-epilepsy.com/women-hormones-seizures/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818554/

https://www.activebeat.com/your-health/women/6-signs-of-hormone-havoc-in-women/?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=AB_GGL_US_DESK-SearchMarketing&utm_content=g_c_179097237047&cus_widget=&utm_term=hormonal%20imbalance%20in%20women&cus_teaser=kwd-299998681&gclid=CjwKCAiA5qTfBRAoEiwAwQy-6bT4rnpkX7xe90_WYccdU4GT-jF66UaL-DRNhYo5rh49a_-8r-MSjRoC5PYQAvD_BwE

https://www.reference.com/article/hormone-imbalance-9a9a9a4ddf721a31?aq=hormone+imbalance+in+women&qo=cdpArticles

 


37 Comments »

  1. Some neuroendocrinologists (did I spell that correctly?) will deal with this, but not all. Assuming you can even find one to talk to.

    Also, referring back to your post about salt: electrolytes interact with hormones interact with synapses. It’s this big complex web, and it’s always changing, which is part of what makes balancing what you ingest difficult on any given hour of any given day.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by HoDo — November 25, 2019 @ 10:57 AM

    • If only the docs would recognize the importance of this and actually do something.

      For those who didn’t read it:

      Epilepsy and Electrolytes

      https://epilepsytalk.com/2019/09/12/epilepsy-and-electrolytes/

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 25, 2019 @ 11:11 AM

      • It’s my experience that most doctors don’t know what to do and the research is slow in coming. (My eye doctor is the most knowledgeable. Go figure.) What we can do for ourselves is try to keep aware that whatever we ingest may increase or decrease the possibility of a seizure, and accept or reject the risk. So time-consuming, so often tedious, but worthwhile.

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by HoDo — November 25, 2019 @ 1:49 PM

    • Thank you HODO for that!! I will keep that in mind when I meet with my neurologist on December 6. 😊🙏🏼🦅💞

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 2:57 PM

  2. Annecdotal evidence suggests the majority of male neurologists still don’t want to admit to the hormone/seizure connection yest alone discuss it. And scarily there’s reports of a lot of female specialists even wanting to downplay it. If you don’t have a doctor- specialist or GP who will even acknowledge the fact, then what?

    Like a number of other women I know, my seizures suddenly got worse when I hit my 40s, and that turned out to be the start of peri-menopause, ie a major shift in hormone levels. I’d never had catamenial seizures- or clusters- my whole life and suddenly was having clusters every time for several years, then they suddenly stopped. Now I’m wondering what’s going to happen next. Many years ago I read in a book (!) that menopause can make seizures better/worse/stay the same so it’s a waiting game for us just like everything else with epilepsy I suppose, but hormones really are adding insult to injury

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Katie — November 25, 2019 @ 2:42 PM

    • Unfortunately, we don’t know what peri-menopause, menopause or post-menopause will bring.

      At least with catamenial seizures, there’s a time frame, but we’re not so lucky (???) now.

      All of your points are good ones. But unfortunately, they’re questions not easily answered. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 25, 2019 @ 3:22 PM

    • Often women are encouraged to eat more soy during menopause, but it’s worth noting that soy – and other foods high in estrogen, as well as estrogen-based medications – can increase the probability of seizures.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by HoDo — November 25, 2019 @ 3:56 PM

    • Often women entering menopause are encouraged to eat more soy products. But soy, which contains a lot of estrogen, as well as medications that contain high levels of estrogen, can increase the probability of seizures. It pays to keep a diary. There’s an estrogen-migrained connection as well.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by HoDo — November 25, 2019 @ 4:01 PM

  3. Goodafternoon Phylis 😊. Yes I used to find I had the toughest challenge around that time of the month and my medications we increased just for that week. Now with the life cycle change (menopause) I find that’s when everything hit the roof really bad!! Oddly NO SEIZURES THOUGH!!!!! That was the realization of the generic vs brand name medications and everything that was happening with me. Oddly now it’s been a bit of teeter tottering but still no seizures. Mind you apparently it takes time to re-adjust. Makes me wonder if menopause has something to do with this? Is so then maybe it’s time for neurologists to starts to think a bit deeper or change the medication is needed. Especially if a person has been on the same medication for all their lives. SIADH is still beginning to become a new thing for some doctors to realize as well. I just truly hope if my neurologist is as intelligent as he should be he doesn’t lack common sense as well and thinks of the patients who wellbeing in order to completely help the patient help themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 2:55 PM

    • I think, in your case, the catamenial seizures went away with menopause.

      Some are not so lucky.

      But your drug reactions probably came from a hormonal shifts, that happily, you discovered.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 25, 2019 @ 3:25 PM

      • I’m just wondering what that would mean? They had me on the wrong medications as well for 5 years!! I caught it and had it changed myself and then told my family doctor as well. But something did happen during the change back. The first couple of days were EXCELLENT!! But then it feels like it just turned into an uphill battle from there!! No seizures yet, but the numbness did return. Almost makes me think it’s time for a change in medications now!! Yesterday was THE FIRST DAY IN OVER A YEAR when I could feel it was time to take a nap and a rest!! But I did find doctor prescribed ibuprofen 600mgs helped with the tingling and numbness but my pharmacist was saying their “back ordered” on the ibprophen so I have to wait until February or even March now!! The off the shelf “ibprophen or Advil” just didn’t seem to do the same thing as the prescribed ibprophen even though my pharmacist says there’s no difference

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 3:33 PM

      • 600 MG of ibuprofen back ordered until February or March? That’s outrageous!

        Have you considered mail order from Canada?

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 25, 2019 @ 3:39 PM

      • In all honesty I never thought of that? May I please ask how to do that? Thank you. I will admit even I was surprised when I was told that as well!!

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 3:42 PM

      • If I knew how to do that I would have done it a long time ago!! I must admit I SAID THE SAME THING!!!!!!! Sometimes I think it’s the pharmaceutical business or even trade deals between countries. Thank you Phylis and please have a very good day today 😊💗

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 3:49 PM

  4. Out of curiosity is their a medication that does help an female with epilepsy who’s going through menopause with the numbness and tingling. Like possible medication change?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 3:03 PM

  5. That’s okay Phylis 😊🦅💗. It just made me curious because I heard “gabapentin” helps with that issue but I’m not sure that’s all. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 3:35 PM

  6. In Canada certain provincial governments are trying to force our people to take cheaper drugs called “BIOSIMILARS”. I’m not so sure that’s such a good thing. But the problem is the cost of certain medications is outrageous!! Makes me wonder what is happening with all of our medications for epileptics, gastrointestinal, arthritis patients and diabetic people as well. Everything always comes back to our stomachs

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 4:13 PM

  7. Thank you Phylis 😊. Talk about the PHARMACEUTICALS BECOMING A MONOPOLY I don’t think even our doctors and NEUROLOGISTS are aware of!!!!!!! It just appears as drug company’s or governments decides to make changes to the way we receive our medications some of us can’t handle it and that should be taken into account as were being told there’s a drug shortage. Who would of ever thought of A DRUG SHORTAGE IN THIS DAY AND AGE!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — November 25, 2019 @ 8:42 PM

    • I think our doctors are well aware of it.

      And surprise, surprise, many of them get kick-backs.

      It’s the pharmaceutical companies that are driving this train.

      Just follow the $$$. 😦

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 26, 2019 @ 10:26 AM

  8. my neuro just yelled in anger, Female fantasies, shut up!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Gail Barry — November 26, 2019 @ 5:32 AM

  9. WOW!!!!!!! I always try to make it a point to never bring my family, friends or even sometimes my husband and children in with me. I’m kind of thinking this time is going to have to be an exception to that rule. BUT I WILL TELL YOU I had an epitologist try and put me on the “No Name Keppra” about 5 years ago and when I got home I did my research on it and because of my past (with myself and temper) and all of the suicides in my own people I declined to try it!!!!!!! So I called him back to inform him and he phoned me back (yes on the day of my 20th anniversary) and while our families we all here he began to scream it me for almost an hour until my husband came in and grabbed the phone and hung it up!!!!! Primarily for that reason I NEVER WENT BACK!! Thank god neither my husband nor my families heard!!!!!!! So I do believe even neurologists/epitologists can abuse their powers and become abusive as well. That is NOT A GOOD THING WHEN WE ARE SUPPOSED TO WORK TOGETHER!! I’m so sorry that happened to you!! 😨😢

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — November 26, 2019 @ 10:06 AM

    • When a doctor goes against your “wishes” or something you know goes against your body chemistry, it is time to stand up and protect yourself.

      Only you know your body best.

      And it was a smart thing to go to another epileptologist, if this one had no regard for your body.

      However, I always recommend taking another person with you to a docs appointment. As a second pair of eyes and ears.

      You never know what they’ve seen and you haven’t.

      Don’t leave them out.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 26, 2019 @ 10:48 AM


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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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