Epilepsy symptoms can be worsened by the natural hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s body as she ages.
Epilepsy is a serious disorder of the brain, which causes muscle contractions, jerky movements, and a loss of consciousness. It is caused by the overstimulation of nerve cells in the brain. Usually, the seizures are controllable since there are several effective medications currently available to treat them. However, natural changes in a woman’s hormone levels because of perimenopause or menopause can have an impact on the brain’s nerve cells, so the medications might not work as well as they are supposed to. Because of this, it is important that all women who have epilepsy be informed about the way their hormone levels can affect their health condition.
How Hormones Affect Nerve Cells
Women have more estrogen in their body than men do. Most people know that this is what causes them to have softer skin, higher voices, and larger fat deposits on their hips, thighs, and chest area. But what some might not realize is that estrogen also acts as an excitatory agent on the nerve cells of the brain. Progesterone, which is another hormone that women have in their body, helps to balance out the excitatory action.
How Perimenopause and Menopause Affect Nerve Cells
When a woman is past the mature age, her body stops producing as much estrogen and progesterone. This causes her to first enter perimenopause, which is when her period begins to taper off since she no longer needs an extra layer of blood and tissue in her uterus to support a child. Finally, her period will stop completely, which is when she is considered menopausal. While both of these conditions are perfectly natural, the decrease in estrogen and progesterone they cause means that the nerve cells in the brain will start firing erratically. And this can trigger a pattern of seizures. In fact, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, most epileptic women experience a 40-percent increase in their seizure activity as they age. Usually, when this happens, doctors call the condition catamenial epilepsy. Catamenial epilepsy most commonly occurs in women who are especially sensitive to the hormone changes going on in their bodies.
Epilepsy and Hormone-Replacement Therapy
One treatment option for women when they begin to experience a drop in their estrogen and progesterone levels is hormone-replacement therapy (HRT). HRT is a synthetic form of estrogen that comes from pregnant mares’ urine. It can also trigger seizures though. Additionally, some health experts believe that it could increase a woman’s chances of developing certain kinds of cancer. Other natural over-the-counter supplements sold for treating waning hormone levels can have the same effect, such as black cohosh and wild yam.
As you can see, it is crucial that women who are epileptic keep their hormone levels as steady as possible because any changes in those levels could trigger an increase in the number of seizures they experience. Perimenopause and menopause aren’t the only conditions that cause changes in estrogen and progesterone though. Monthly menstruation or pregnancy can have an impact on them, too. Because of this, women with epilepsy should work closely with their doctor to carefully monitor their hormone levels, so they can come up with a treatment plan that will work the best for them.