Just about all aspects of a person’s life can be impacted by a diagnosis of epilepsy, including working, driving and family life. But the effects of epilepsy can reach into the bedroom as well, causing sexual dysfunction and disrupting intimate relationships.
“Patients often think about the things they can’t do on a larger scale, but a lot of them don’t think about how it’s affecting them in the bedroom,” says epileptologist Andrey Stojic, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute at Lakewood Hospital. “Sexual function can also be part of this disease, and if it’s affecting their quality of life, they need to bring it to their doctor’s attention.”
Seizure control is key
“Sexual dysfunction is worse in those whose seizures aren’t controlled,” Dr. Stojic says. “This is another reason, among many, to get seizures under control.”
Many people with uncontrolled epilepsy live in near-constant worry of a seizure occurring at work, school or in other public settings, he says.
Those worries often prevent people with epilepsy from developing intimate, romantic relationships, says Dr. Stojic.
“It’s not just that they worry they might have a seizure in an intimate moment,” he says. “It’s also the concern of when and how you tell someone that you have epilepsy,” a moment that many people with epilepsy struggle with.
Seizures and sex drive
There are also physiological connections between sexual function and epilepsy.
“Many of the networks involved in epilepsy impact parts of the central nervous system that control hormone production,” Dr. Stojic says. “The most common problems are decreased libido and sexual dysfunction.”
Anti-seizure medications can also impact sexual function. Some older seizure medications have been associated with lower testosterone production in men, which decreases sex drive. In women, some medications have been found to increase certain hormones that control libido.
In these cases, an adjustment to medications or dosage can help the problem.
Epilepsy and aging
The greatest increase in epilepsy diagnoses are found in adults over 60, Dr. Stojic says.
Sexual problems like decreased libido, impotence and difficulty achieving climax often increase with age and can be associated with other medical problems, like diabetes or hypertension.
That makes it hard to determine whether the sexual dysfunction is the result of epilepsy or other causes, he says, and requires further medical examination.
Source: Cleveland Clinic