Epilepsy Treatment Hormones

Hormones don’t typically cause epilepsy seizures, but they can have an effect on seizures when they occur. Estrogen tends to increase neural activity in the brain, while progesterone has an inhibitory effect on neural activity. At certain times throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, estrogen levels are higher than progesterone levels. During these times, women with epilepsy are at increased risk of seizures.

Many women experience changes in seizure frequency during:

  • Menopause
  • Menstruation
  • Ovulation
  • Puberty.

When seizures correlate with the menstrual cycle, it’s known as “catamenial epilepsy.” According to the Mayo Clinic, catamenial epilepsy affects one-third to one-half of all women with epilepsy.

During puberty and menopause, hormone levels fluctuate, but these changes are highly unpredictable. As a result, some women see an increase in seizure frequency during this time, while others see a decrease in their seizures. Some women experience no change at all.

Cyclic Hormone Treatment for Epilepsy

Because progesterone has the potential to decrease the risk of hormone-sensitive seizures, progesterone therapy may be an effective complementary treatment for epilepsy. “Cyclic hormone treatment” raises progesterone levels during the second half of the menstrual cycle (luteal phase) and drops them down again gradually, before menstruation begins. This prevents high estrogen levels from inducing seizures.

Benefits of Hormone Treatment for Epilepsy

In one study conducted by Epilepsy Ontario, six out of eight women who received progesterone therapy experienced fewer seizures during the phase of their menstrual cycle in which they had previously been most sensitive to seizures. In a similar study published in the Alternative Medicine Review in 2007, 18 out of 25 women who received hormone treatment for epilepsy experienced a decrease in hormone-influenced seizures.

An additional benefit of progesterone treatment is that it doesn’t increase the risk of osteoporosis. For many women, certain anti-epileptic medications that they take for their seizures cause a decrease in bone density that may, in some cases, lead to osteoporosis in post-menopausal years.

Risks of Hormone Treatment for Epilepsy

The risks of using natural progesterone therapy appear to be minimal. Some reported side effects include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of weakness.

Is Hormone Treatment Right for You?

Hormone treatment for epilepsy is still a new treatment area currently being explored. Scientists are conducting more research to ensure that it’s an effective treatment for epilepsy. Talk to your physician about the benefits and risks of natural progesterone treatment pertaining to your particular seizure medication to determine whether it’s right for you.

Resources

Epilepsy Association Staff. (2006). Women and epilepsy. Retrieved March 31, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.au/fact_sheets/Women.pdf

Gaby, A. R. (2007). Natural approaches to epilepsy. Retrieved March 31, 2010, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FDN/is_1_12/ai_n19170695/?tag=content;col1

Herzog, A. G. (2006). A Relationship between seizures and the menstrual cycle.

Retrieved March 31, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/epilepsyusa/catamenial.cfm

Noldy-MacLean, N. E. (n.d.). Seizures and the menstrual cycle. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyontario.org/client/eo/eoweb.nsf/PrinterFriendly/Seizures and the Menstrual Cycle?OpenDocument

The Epilepsy Foundation of America® Staff. (n.d.). Hormone-sensitive seizures. Retrieved March 31, 2010 from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/answerplace/Life/adults/women/Professional/hormone.cfm

The Epilepsy Foundation of America® Staff. (n.d.). Hormones and epilepsy. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/living/women/hormones/weihormones.cfm

The Epilepsy Foundation of America® Staff. (n.d.) Menopause and epilepsy. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/living/women/hormones/weimenopause.cfm