Many men with epilepsy have normal sex lives and father healthy children. But epilepsy can sometimes cause problems with sex and fertility. This information is for those men with epilepsy who may have problems.
Will having epilepsy affect my sex life?
Any man might have problems with sex from time to time, but problems are more common in men with epilepsy than men without epilepsy. The most common problems for men with epilepsy are having little or no interest in sex, and having problems with getting or keeping an erection.
How epilepsy can affect sex life
There are a number of possible reasons why, as a man with epilepsy, you’re more likely to have problems with sex. Possible reasons include:
Some epilepsy medicines list sexual problems as a possible side-effect. These medicines are gabapentin, pregabalin, topiramate, clobazam and clonazepam.
Some other medicines don’t list sexual problems as a side-effect. But they can reduce the level of testosterone in your body. This could affect your interest in or ability to have sex. The medicines that can cause you to have low testosterone levels include phenobarbital, phenytoin, carbamazepine and primidone. There’s also some evidence that oxcarbazepine, when taken at doses higher than 900mg per day, can have this effect.
Many men take these epilepsy medicines, but only some will have sexual problems. If you think your epilepsy medicine might be having an effect on your sex life talk to your GP, epilepsy specialist nurse or epilepsy specialist.
Seizures, especially those that start in a part of the brain called the temporal lobe, can affect levels of sex hormones in the body. Studies suggest that people with temporal lobe epilepsy are more likely to have low sex drive.
Some men worry that they’ll have a seizure during sex. Having sex is very unlikely to trigger seizures, and most men with epilepsy don’t have seizures during sex. But if this is something that you’re worried about, the worry could have an effect on your sex life.
Your body produces the hormone testosterone. Testosterone is responsible for many things that affect your sex life. These include your interest in having sex, your ability to have sex and your fertility. If you have low testosterone levels, this may cause you to have problems with your sex life.
Treating sexual problems
If you have any worries about your sex drive, or your ability to have sex, you are not alone. It’s really worth talking to your GP. They will look for ways to help you. For most men with sexual problems, a treatment can be found.
If you and your doctor think your sexual problems may have an emotional cause, your doctor may recommend sex therapy, psychotherapy or relationship counselling.
If it looks like there’s a physical cause for your sexual problems, your GP may suggest lifestyle changes or treatments to help.
If your GP thinks your sexual problems might be connected to your epilepsy or epilepsy medicines, they will usually refer you to an epilepsy specialist. Your epilepsy specialist might suggest making changes to your treatment to see if this helps.
The NHS website has information about treatment for male sexual problems.
Fertility (fathering a baby)
Some research suggests that men with epilepsy may not be as fertile as men who don’t have epilepsy. This can make it more difficult to father a baby.
Ways in which epilepsy may affect your fertility
You may be taking an epilepsy medicine that can reduce the amount of sperm you produce or affect the quality of it. Carbamazepine, phenytoin and sodium valproate may all have this effect. There’s a small amount of evidence that levetiracetam may also affect the number and quality of sperm you produce.
Your epilepsy or epilepsy medicines may have caused you to have lower testosterone levels than usual. This could make you less fertile.
Treating fertility problems
If you’re trying for a baby and your partner is taking a long time to get pregnant, speak to your family doctor. They can check for common causes of fertility problems in you and your partner. They can also suggest treatments that may help.
If your family doctor thinks that your epilepsy or epilepsy medicines are a possible cause, they’ll usually refer you to an epilepsy specialist. The specialist may make changes to your epilepsy medicine, to see if that helps.
Where to get further help
Sexual Advice Association
Tel: 020 7486 7262
Aims to help improve the sexual health and wellbeing of men and women. Their website has information on many different aspects of sexual problems.
Institute of Psychosexual Medicine (IPM)
Provides a list of IPM trained specialists, some working privately and some on the NHS.
If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 5050.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, for his contribution.
Dr John Paul Leach has declared no conflict of interest.
This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.
- Updated October 2018To be reviewed October 2021