Physical Growth and Endocrinal Disorders during Pubertal Maturation in Girls with Epilepsy


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Summary: Purpose: This study investigated the effect of epilepsy and/or antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) on the physical growth, pubertal development, and androgenic status of girls with epilepsy between ages 8 and 18 years.

Methods: Sixty-six female patients with epilepsy, their mean ages 13.47 ± 3.5 years, were included. Anthropometric measurements, staging of pubertal maturation, and clinical manifestations of hyperandrogenism were assessed, as well as measurement of serum levels of testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG), and free androgen index (FAI). Of the included patients, 44 had transabdominal ultrasonic examination of the ovaries and fasting serum insulin levels were measured. Forty healthy age-matched females served as a control group.

Results: Patients showed reduced mean height percentile compared with controls (z = 2.07; p = 0.04), which was negatively correlated with the duration of their epilepsy. Patients showed increased frequency of obesity, especially postpubertal girls taking valproate (VPA; 67%), who also showed higher insulin levels (t = 8.01; p = 0.0003). Patients showed increased frequency of clinical hyperandrogenemia in the different stages of puberty. High levels of testosterone and DHEAS were found in female patients with epilepsy, especially pubertal and postpubertal girls. Hyperandrogenism (clinical and/or laboratory) was most affected by the types of AEDs, with higher incidence in patients taking VPA compared with those taking enzyme-inducing AEDs (χ2= 9.16; p = 0.01). Eighteen percent of the patients were diagnosed as having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). No difference was found in the types of seizures, degree of seizure control, type of AEDs, or insulin levels between patients with and those without PCOS.

Conclusions: Longer duration of the disease has a negative impact on the stature of female patients with epilepsy. Postpubertal girls taking VPA are more liable to obesity, which is associated with increased incidence of hyperinsulinemia. Clinical and/or laboratory evidence of hyperandrogenism is seen at a high frequency in patients, especially with the use of VPA. Furthermore, female patients with epilepsy especially in the postpubertal stage of sexual maturation, have a high prevalence of PCOS, independent of the type of AED or the characteristics of the epilepsy disorder.