Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that causes seizures. Some, but not all, people with epilepsy develop sexual problems, like erectile dysfunction or female sexual pain.
Sexual problems may occur due to:
- Interference with parts of the brain involved with hormone production or sexual function.
- Medication side effects. Drugs used to treat epilepsy can cause hormonal imbalance or affect the way that hormones work during sexual arousal and response. Side effects may also include fatigue, making a person too tired for sex.
- Anxiety. Because seizures are unpredictable, many couples worry that a seizure might occur during sex or that sexual activity will trigger a seizure. The stress of having an illness like epilepsy may also play a role.
A 2019 study in the journal Epilepsia explained the types of sexual dysfunction experienced by people with epilepsy.
Researchers analyzed data from three groups of people. Two of the groups had epilepsy, while the third did not.
The scientists found that orgasm difficulties (in both men and women), female sexual pain, and erectile dysfunction were more common in people with epilepsy.
However, rates of reduced sexual desire, premature ejaculation/climax, and vaginal dryness were about the same for both groups.
People with epilepsy were more likely to report low sexual satisfaction, too.
Even though epilepsy can be associated with sexual difficulties, it should not be a barrier to enjoying healthy sexual relationships.
Understanding epilepsy is important for both patients and their partners. Talking to healthcare providers is a good first step. A doctor can suggest reliable, accurate resources to read and view. Partners should always know what to do in the event of a seizure, whenever it might occur.
A doctor can also make recommendations for managing epilepsy and any related sexual problems. For example, there are several ways to treat erectile dysfunction. Women who experience sexual pain might try a lubricant.
Counseling is another idea to consider, either alone or as a couple. Not everyone feels comfortable being open and honest about their feelings. Counselors can help clients build communication skills and cope with anxiety. Sex therapists address more specific sexual concerns.
Henning, Oliver, et al.
“Sexual function in people with epilepsy: Similarities and differences with the general population”
(First published: August 13, 2019)
“Relationships and epilepsy”
International Society for Sexual Medicine
“How might epilepsy affect sexual relationships?”
“What can be done to help people with epilepsy who want to have sex?”