Epilepsy is a condition of the central nervous system that is characterized by recurrent seizures. The goal of management is to make patients seizure free without intolerable adverse effects from treatment. Men and women differ in their physiologic makeup and therefore have different needs that must be considered when attempting to attain this goal. There are special concerns for women of child-bearing years with regard to contraception, pregnancy, and teratogenicity that should be consided during counseling and selection of appropriate treatment. There are also emerging concerns about the interaction of antiepileptic drugs and endocrine function that can affect ovarian function, induce polycystic ovary (PCO)-like syndrome, and threaten fertility. Systemic adverse effects can have a negative impact on weight, cosmetic appearance, sexual function, and bone health. Individualized treatment coupling antiepileptic drug use and the specific phase of impact of the reproductive cycle must be considered in treatment selection. Important concerns regarding long-term therapy are being raised as there are more treatment options to consider because of the plethora of new antiepileptic drugs that are available, often with more favorable pharmacokinetics and different adverse event profiles. Also, sex hormone fluctuations during maturation may exacerbate seizures at particular points during the life cycle for women, including menarche, during menses, during pregnancy, or later in the perimenopausal years, often presenting a uniquely challenging aspect to treatment. As the number of available treatment options for epilepsy increases, the optimal goal for primary care physicians is to work as a team with obstetricians, gynecologists, and neurologists in an effort to ensure the best treatment of women with epilepsy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine