Menopause and Epilepsy – Important Things to Know

Menopause is a natural part of the life of all women, but it is also an exceptionally unique phase.

Indeed, each woman will experience different menopausal symptoms and might deal with more or less severe consequences of the hormonal changes that characterize perimenopause and menopause. 

Nonetheless, all people experiencing menopause should watch out for common signs – and, this is especially true if you have been diagnosed with epilepsy. In this guide, you’ll learn more about the correlation between epilepsy and menopause. 

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Hormonal Influences Play a Role in Women With Seizures

To understand how epileptic seizures might change before, during, and after menopause, it is firstly important to find answers to key questions such as “what is epilepsy ?”. 

Epilepsy is defined as a neurological disorder that causes recurring and unprovoked seizures. Seizures might vary in frequency, nature, and intensity, and a new-onset seizure can appear at any moment of a person’s life.

Although epilepsy is a long-term condition, over 70% of those with a seizure disorder are able to live a seizure-free life with proper treatment. 

A seizure can be triggered by multiple factors, including hormonal influences and high-stress levels. According to research, there is a close link between epileptic seizures and hormones.

Life stages that come with severe hormonal changes, such as menopause, can influence when a woman’s seizures start and end, or at what frequency they happen.

Menopause Can Change Your Seizures or Lead to New-Onset Seizures

According to research involving over 60 women, menopause can lead to drastic changes to the nature, type, and intensity of the seizures experienced by a woman. In those without epilepsy, menopause can trigger a new-onset seizure, which can lead to a diagnosis of epilepsy. 

The same study showed that over 40% of women with epilepsy reported worsening of their seizures during menopause and 27% reported improvements. 

Epilepsy Can Cause Your Perimenopausal Phase To Start Early

Menopause tends to happen in women between 45 and 55 years old. However, studies have shown that having a diagnosis of epilepsy or recurring seizures can have a range of effects on a woman’s fertility level, ovulatory patterns, and menopause onset.

In particular, those with epilepsy might experience the early symptoms of perimenopause in their early 40s or earlier. 

Your Seizures Might Be Less Frequent After Menopause

As we have seen, the pattern and nature of your seizures might change with menopause. However, you might also notice that your epilepsy will change from one menopausal phase to the next. 

For example, women who have catamenial or cyclical epilepsy in which their seizure pattern follows the cycle of their periods, are likely to experience worsening in their seizures during perimenopause.

However, once they enter menopause (usually 12 months after their last period), they are likely to experience a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their seizures. 

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Can Cause You To Experience More Seizures

For many women affected by severe menopausal symptoms, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can be a lifeline.

HRT allows women to keep hot flushes and night sweats under control, thus allowing them to live a less stressful and more balanced life during the transition into menopause 

However, HRT is conducted by delivering estrogen, which is known to be a pro-convulsant (or a seizure-causing agent).

So, if you have decided to try HRT and you have epilepsy, you should consider consulting an experienced neurologist to be clear about what to expect from this treatment and choose an HRT program that works for your unique health needs. 

How To Manage Epilepsy During and After Menopause

Although menopause can change your epileptic seizures, there is a lot that you can do to manage your epilepsy. Naturally, sticking to an antiepileptic treatment program is essential. 

However, you should also consider mastering self-control and biofeedback to prevent or reduce the intensity of upcoming seizures.

Additionally, you can reduce the risk of dealing with epileptic episodes by lowering your stress levels (which is a common trigger of seizures), getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding alcohol and certain medications. 

If in doubt, working with a neurologist who also specializes in women’s health can help.