Epilepsy and Puberty

6th September 2021

Puberty is the time when the body starts to make a change from being a child to an adult. During this period of time both girls and boys will start to notice changes in their bodies. For boys, body and facial hair growth, a deeper voice and growth in the genitals is typical. For girls, body hair, breast growth and the start of menstruation are all expected. 

In addition, for both genders, mood swings and a heightened sense of emotionality can be commonplace. Puberty tends to start between the ages of 10 and 15, although it can vary wildly and everyone grows and changes at different speeds. 

Does puberty cause epilepsy? 

Whilst puberty itself does not cause epilepsy, there are a number of epilepsy syndromes that are known to begin during puberty. An epilepsy syndrome is simply a group of signs and symptoms that when added together indicate a certain diagnosis. Juvenile absence epilepsy and juvenile myoclonic epilepsy are both common examples of syndromes that begin during puberty. 

The reason for this is likely due to the change in body and brain chemistry that comes along with the hormonal changes of puberty. 

Can puberty affect pre-existing epilepsy?

Another valid question is to wonder whether going through puberty will have an effect on a person’s epilepsy. It is, in fact, very possible for a person to experience more seizures through puberty. This could be due to a number of reasons, most likely being the change in hormones that come along with puberty. In addition, puberty can be a stressful time, which could trigger seizures as hormone levels affect how you feel. 

Can having epilepsy affect puberty?

The final concern that many people have is whether having epilepsy will affect their ability to undergo puberty successfully. There is no evidence to suggest that epilepsy has any impact on puberty and there should be no need to be concerned about this. However, if you have epilepsy and you haven’t started puberty by the time you’re 15 then it would be a good idea to talk to a doctor or specialist nurse to try and find the reason for the late development. 

Menstruation and epilepsy

Of course, this will only affect females, but another thing to be aware of can be the impact of menstruation on epilepsy. Females with epilepsy are at slightly higher risk of having irregular periods, which means that they may not follow a regular pattern, and can happen more or less often than the typical 24 – 35 day cycle. 

Seizure activity may also increase during certain times of the month that align with a girls period. This could be at the start, middle or in the week before the menstrual cycle commences and could be due to the changing hormone levels that occur during this time. 

If you have started to notice a pattern between seizure activity and your menstrual cycle it would be worthwhile keeping a seizure diary to discuss with your doctor alongside potential treatment options. 

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