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of everyone affected by epilepsy

Women with epilepsy "not getting enough information"

16 November, 2005

Women with
epilepsy are not getting enough information about the condition and the
impact it has on pregnancy, sexual function, weight, menopause and bone
health, with all of these topics rated as being of high concern in a
survey.

Conducted by the women's online community iVillage,
the survey of 440 women taking anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) also showed
that women are not receiving enough education on how their AEDs relate
to important female health issues. The survey also found that there
isn't adequate communication between women with epilepsy and their
doctors about key issues.

Additional
results from the survey show an overall lack of female health knowledge
among women, with nearly 82 per cent of women indicating they were less
than "very knowledgeable" about a broad range of female health issues
as they related to epilepsy and AEDs.

Of
the women aged under 35 surveyed, 69 per cent said they were concerned
about pregnancy and the use of AEDs and 61 per cent have had pregnancy
decisions influenced by their epilepsy and treatment. Almost 40 per
cent of women said that epilepsy has or will affect their decision to
have a child, with the majority citing fears about the child's health
and concerns about taking medications while pregnant.

The
survey results indicated that neither doctors nor patients are taking
the lead in initiating dialogue on the female health issues studied in
this survey. Women initiating the discussion 33 per cent of the time
and health care professionals leading the discussion only 20 per cent
of the time. The survey reported that discussions about these issues do
not take place nearly 50 percent of the time; even though the majority
of women surveyed indicated they wanted more information on sexual
function (44 percent), menopause (53 per cent), weight (61 per cent),
and bone health (65 per cent).

Dr Blanca Vazquez, from the New York University School of Medicine department of neurology, commented:

"Women
with epilepsy tend to stay on the same medication for a long period of
time, and many women are reluctant to consider changing their
medication if their seizures are under control. However, there are
other important issues to consider beyond seizure control. It is
important for women to take the initiative to have an informed
discussion with their physician about treatment choices that are right
for them in their current stage of life.

"Even
if women are planning to have a family five years from now, or
menopause is ten years away, it is never too soon to discuss how
epilepsy and the medications taken to manage seizures might impact
their life.

"The
results show concern about pregnancy, when in fact, with the right
treatment and partnership with a physician, it is possible for women
with epilepsy to have a healthy pregnancy and child.

"Clearly,
the results indicate women need more information so they should be
proactive about initiating discussions about these important female
health issues and asking questions of their physician. Conversely,
health care professionals also need to take an active role and ensure
women are well versed about the impact epilepsy and anti-epileptic
drugs can have throughout life."