September 24, 2020

Study Reveals Seizures During Menstrual Cycle Linked to Drug-Resistant Epilepsy

Summary, originally posted on EurekAlert

More frequent seizures during the menstrual cycle in women with genetic generalized epilepsy have been linked for the first time to drug-resistant epilepsy when anti-seizure medications don’t work, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

Women with a form of genetic generalized epilepsy called catamenial epilepsy – when seizure frequency increases during their menstrual cycle – were nearly four times more likely to have drug-resistant epilepsy than women who experience no changes in frequency. In generalized epilepsy, seizures begin on both sides of the brain at the same time, while focal seizures start in only one part of the brain.

“Typically, genetic generalized epilepsy is thought to respond better to anti-seizure medications than focal epilepsy. However, previous studies suggest a minority of individuals, between 18 and 36%, with genetic generalized epilepsy, do not respond well to these medications,” said senior author Gary A. Heiman, an associate professor in the Department of Genetics in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. “It is unclear why seizures in these individuals do not respond well, and we sought to investigate why. We found a surprising association between women’s menstrual cycle and these with drug-resistant genetic generalized epilepsy. Understanding the reasons for this association could lead to alternative, personalized treatment options for at least some patients.”