Sexual dysfunction in people with epilepsy

Epilepsy Behav. 2019 Nov;100(Pt A):106495. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2019.106495. Epub 2019 Sep 29.


Sexual dysfunction is a common comorbidity in people with epilepsy (PWE) that adversely affects their quality of life. Nearly one-half of men and women with epilepsy have sexual dysfunction, but in the majority, this often goes unnoticed. The wide variation in the reported prevalence of sexual dysfunction in PWE is due to the significant heterogeneity among the studies with regard to patient population, type and severity of epilepsy, number and type of antiseizure drugs (ASDs) used, and the tools used for assessing sexual dysfunction. Generally, patients with uncontrolled epilepsy, longer duration of epilepsy, focal epilepsy, higher seizure frequency, and those receiving enzyme-inducing and multiple ASDs are more likely to have sexual dysfunction. Women generally have dysfunction in the domains of desire, while males usually have arousal disorders such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. There is limited evidence to indicate that sexual function improves in patients rendered seizure-free following epilepsy surgery. Multiple mechanisms including direct effects of epilepsy, effects of ASDs, and psychosocial factors contribute to sexual dysfunction in epilepsy. Circumstantial evidence indicates that seizures and interictal epileptiform discharges can directly affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis as well as production of gonadal steroids. Enzyme-inducing ASDs cause sexual dysfunction by affecting the metabolism of gonadal steroids. Limited data suggest that newer ASDs including oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine, and levetiracetam cause no or minimal sexual dysfunction. Depression and anxiety significantly contribute to sexual dysfunction in PWE. A multipronged and multidisciplinary approach is essential for optimizing the sexual functions. Every effort should be made to identify and treat reversible causes including changing to nonenzyme-inducing ASDs and to provide symptomatic relief. Large, prospective studies are required to improve our understanding on prevalence and mechanisms of sexual dysfunction in PWE.

Keywords: Antiseizure drugs; Epilepsy surgery; Erectile dysfunction; Hypersexuality; Hyposexuality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / diagnosis
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / physiopathology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / psychology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology


  • Anticonvulsants