What Is Epilepsy?Epilepsy is the second most common neurological disorder seen by physicians (headaches are the most common reason for doctor visits). Recurrent episodes of seizures are caused by a disturbance in the brain's electrical system. There are several types of seizure disorders; the two most common are called partial seizures and generalized seizures:
seizures affect one hemisphere of the brain.
- Generalized seizures start in both sides of the brain at the same time causing an immediate loss of consciousness.
The length and severity of seizures varies from a few seconds to several minutes, and includes symptoms ranging from blank stares and lip smacking to extreme jerking of the arms and legs.
What Causes Epilepsy?There are many possible causes for epilepsy including:
- head injuries,
- brain tumors,
- brain injuries at birth,
- and inherited disease.
However, it's important to understand approximately 65% of patients never discover the cause of their epilepsy.
How Does Epilepsy Affect Women?Women diagnosed with epilepsy face unique health issues that include reproductive problems, osteoporosis, excessive weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.
rates for women with epilepsy are about a third lower
than the general population. Although this may be partly
due to the fact that women with seizure disorders may be
reluctant to have children, research shows that these
women face more menstrual abnormalities, polycystic
ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and other reproductive problems
which can interfere with normal fertility. The causes of
these reproductive problems have been linked to seizures
and the side effects of certain anti-epileptic drugs
to Dr. Cecilie M. Lander of Epilepsy Queensland, the
drugs of first and second choice for most women with
primary generalized epilepsy are valproate and
lamotrigine in whatever dose controls the epilepsy. She
also advises that women who may unexpectedly become
pregnant should take the "reasonable insurance" of 1 mg
of folic acid daily.
- AEDs that can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills include Dilantin (phenytoin), Tegretol (carbamazephine), and barbiturates such as Phenobarb, Prominal, Mysoline, and Topamax (topiramate).
Women with epilepsy should discuss any potential drug interactions, side effects, and potential health risks caused by anti-epileptic medications with their physicians.