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Osteoporosis and epilepsy

Epilepsy and taking anti-epileptic drugs may contribute to the risk of developing osteoporosis for some people.

What is osteoporosis?

The mineral calcium is important for our bones. Vitamin D helps calcium to get into the bones and the calcium helps to make bones strong. When calcium is lost, bones become thinner, more brittle, and break more easily. This is called osteoporosis.

Risks of developing osteoporosis

Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but it is more common in women, especially after the menopause when levels of oestrogen start to decrease.

Having epilepsy and taking anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) may contribute to the risk of developing osteoporosis, but how much they contribute to this risk is not clear, and will vary from person to person.

Taking enzyme-inducing AEDs

Taking high doses of several different AEDs for many years may contribute to the risk of developing osteoporosis. Studies have shown that some enzyme-inducing AEDs may increase the levels of chemicals in the liver that destroy vitamin D, reducing the amount of vitamin D in the body.

NICE recommends that all adults taking enzyme-inducing AEDs have their vitamin D levels checked every 2 - 5 years to make sure their bones are healthy.

A bone density scan can check bone strength and provide information on whether treatment for osteoporosis may be helpful. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help replace the natural loss of calcium.

If you have concerns about osteoporosis, talking to your neurologist about having your vitamin D levels checked or a bone density scan might help.

See contraception and epilepsy for a list of enzyme-inducing AEDs.

The menopause

If osteoporosis happens when a woman goes through the menopause, HRT containing oestrogen or a combination of oestrogen and progestogen, may be prescribed. HRT is generally used to relieve the symptoms of the menopause. See more about menopause and epilepsy.

Further information

Contact the Royal Osteoporosis Society

Taken from our Women leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer, or download the pdf using the link below.