Most women with epilepsy maintain normal reproductive cycles and sexual lives. However, a significant minority, approximately 20-30%, have some degree of sexual dysfunction, including problems with seizure exacerbation, libido, arousal, and orgasm. Fluctuating hormone levels may contribute to an array of reproductive cycling abnormalities. With regard to sexual dysfunction, there is some evidence of reduced genital blood flow in women with temporal lobe epilepsy. Other studies suggest that psychosocial factors, such as depression, feeling stigmatized, and being anxious about having seizures during sex, may contribute to the higher rates of sexual dysfunction in this patient population. Some antiepileptic drugs may adversely affect normal reproductive cycling and sexual function, particularly drugs that increase serotonergic transmission. Conversely, resective epilepsy surgery has been shown to restore sexual function. Treatments for sexual dysfunction include testosterone replacement, although transdermal testosterone replacement is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration for women. Given the possibility that women with epilepsy may experience inadequate vasocongestion during arousal, sildenafil may have a useful role, though it has not proved effective for women in general. This review focuses on potential sexual problems that are faced by women with epilepsy, with the suggestion that proper treatment may alleviate these problems.
Sexuality in women with epilepsy.
October 20, 2005