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  4. Menstrual cycles can trigger seizures in some women with epilepsy, expert explains reasons

Menstrual cycles can trigger seizures in some women with epilepsy, expert explains reasons

Understanding why menstrual cycles can trigger seizures in some women with epilepsy unveils a multifaceted narrative that underscores the need for personalised approaches to seizure management.

Written By : Health Desk Edited By : Kristina Das
New Delhi
Published on: February 05, 2024 11:44 IST
seizures in epileptic women
Image Source : FREEPIK Menstrual cycles can trigger seizures in epileptic women.

For women with epilepsy, the monthly menstrual cycle isn't just a routine occurrence; it can bring along an unwelcome companion: seizures. This intriguing association between hormonal fluctuations and seizure susceptibility has puzzled scientists for years. Let's delve into the intricacies of this relationship and explore why menstrual cycles can trigger seizures in some women with epilepsy.

According to Dr Komal Bhadu, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynecologist, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, which are sudden, uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain. While the causes of epilepsy vary, researchers have long suspected that hormonal factors play a role in influencing seizure activity. This suspicion is particularly pronounced in women with epilepsy, as they often report changes in seizure frequency or intensity about their menstrual cycles.

The menstrual cycle, governed by the rise and fall of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, unfolds in distinct phases: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Estrogen levels surge during the follicular phase, peaking just before ovulation, while progesterone levels rise during the luteal phase, reaching their zenith in the days following ovulation. These hormonal fluctuations orchestrate a delicate interplay that extends beyond reproductive functions, exerting profound effects on neurological processes.

Estrogen, often touted as the "female hormone," wields neuroprotective properties that may help elevate the seizure threshold, making it harder for seizures to occur. In contrast, progesterone, the hormone predominant in the latter half of the menstrual cycle, may exert a less protective influence, potentially rendering some women more susceptible to seizures.

The concept of "catamenial epilepsy" emerges from this interplay, referring to the phenomenon wherein seizures exhibit a pattern linked to the menstrual cycle. Some women with epilepsy experience an increase in seizure activity during specific phases of their menstrual cycle, such as the premenstrual or menstrual phase. These fluctuations in seizure frequency align with changes in hormone levels, underscoring the pivotal role of hormones in modulating seizure susceptibility.

However, it's essential to recognize that not all women with epilepsy experience catamenial epilepsy. Individual variability plays a significant role, with genetic predispositions, underlying neurological conditions, and other factors contributing to diverse responses to hormonal fluctuations.

Managing catamenial epilepsy poses unique challenges that necessitate tailored approaches. Antiepileptic medications, the mainstay of epilepsy treatment, may need adjustments to account for hormonal fluctuations and optimize seizure control. Additionally, exploring adjunctive therapies aimed at regulating hormonal balance, such as hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, holds promise in mitigating seizure exacerbations associated with the menstrual cycle.

Central to effective management is the diligent tracking and documentation of seizures and menstrual cycles. Maintaining a comprehensive seizure diary that includes details of menstrual cycle phases empowers both patients and healthcare providers to identify patterns, pinpoint triggers, and tailor treatment strategies accordingly. This personalized approach ensures that interventions are tailored to individual needs, optimizing seizure management and enhancing quality of life.

In conclusion, the intricate interplay between hormonal fluctuations and epilepsy sheds light on the complex relationship between reproductive biology and neurological function. By elucidating the mechanisms underlying catamenial epilepsy and implementing targeted interventions, we strive to empower women with epilepsy to navigate the intersection of epilepsy and menstruation with greater confidence and control.

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