New study shows increased link between worsening epileptic seizures and women taking estrogen

December 12, 2002

December 12, 2002--(Washington, DC)--Research presented this week draws a link between women taking estrogen-containing compounds, such as oral contraceptives, and worsening or more frequent epileptic seizures. This could have implications on what types of contraceptives doctors prescribe for women who suffer from epilepsy.

"While not conclusive, these studies show that a link can be implicated between estrogen intake and worsening epilepsy," said Dr. Pavel Klein, associate professor of neurology, Georgetown University Medical Center. "If we have patients with epilepsy, we should certainly be studying if epilepsy is sensitive to hormones, and if so, we've got to be cautious in using estrogen-containing oral contraceptives."

Dr. Klein, the lead researcher of this study, evaluated 183 women with epilepsy between the ages of 17 and 55, roughly half of whom had never used oral contraceptives. Among those who did, the duration of usage ranged from 2 months to 14 years. Approximately 20 percent of women in the study had worsening of seizures when using estrogen-containing contraceptives. However, women using injectible or implantable long-term progesterone contraceptive methods, such as Depo-Provera or Norplant, suffered no worsening of seizures.

"The study couldn't pinpoint a specific type of estrogen because too many types were used to get any meaningful statistical analysis," said Klein. "As practitioners, we need to be cautious, and we should explore wider use of injectibles like Depo-Provera."

Klein presented his research, which was done together with Dr. Julio Cantero, a resident in the department of neurology at Georgetown University Hospital, at the American Epilepsy Society's 56th Annual Meeting in Seattle. Dr. Klein is also conducting research into possible links between hormone replacement therapy and worsening epilepsy.
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Georgetown University Medical Center includes the nationally ranked School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Lombardi Cancer Center. For more information, visit www.georgetown.edu/gumc.

Georgetown University Medical Center

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