Emory Report

 December 1, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 14

New program to help women
with brain, nervous disorders

The School of Medicine's Department of Neurology established the Emory Program for Neurologic Disorders in Women for diagnosis, treatment and research.

"The Center is meeting a growing need for expertise in the treatment and research of gender-specific neurologic disease," said Jacqueline Washington, acting director of the center and assistant professor of neurology. "Differences between men and women in neurologic presentation and response to therapy have been identified in epilepsy, stroke, neuromuscular disorders, headache, pain syndromes, fibromyalgia and movement disorders, yet little clinical research has been conducted to categorize these problems."

Based at Crawford Long in conjunction with general neurology services there, physicians at the center are collaborating with Emory specialists in obstetrics and gynecology, endocrinology, nursing, cardiology, psychiatry, genetics, dermatology, neuropsychology and rehabilitation, as well as with scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Services include treatment of headache disorders in pre- and postmenopausal women and specialized consultation for women with epilepsy, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, stroke, multiple sclerosis and movement disorders. As an integral part of the neurology department, the center offers access to other Emory specialists involved in related areas such as surgery for Parkinson's disease (pallidotomy) and epilepsy.

In addition to Washington, who specializes in neuromuscular disorders and stroke, core medical staff at the center include neurologists Page Pennell, who specializes in epilepsy; Sarah DeRossett, an expert in pain disorders and headache; Jane Gilmore, who specializes in multiple sclerosis and headache; Barney Stern, known nationwide for his work in cerebrovascular disease, particularly the relation of stroke to pregnancy; Marian Evatt, who specializes in movement disorders; and Nancy Newman, who specializes in neuro-ophthalmology. Faculty will work with medical students and residents rotating through the center as part of their medical education and will provide patients with a variety of educational information and access to support groups.

Many neurologic disorders uniquely affect women. Some, like migraine, headache, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, occur more frequently in women; disorders such as chronic pelvic pain and catamenial epilepsy occur only in women. Many neurologic disorders occur during childbearing years, and treatment for these conditions should be tailored to potential mothers. Neurologic complications can occur during pregnancy, and certain types of stroke are seen more frequently in women. In addition, information is lacking with regard to the effect of preventive therapies for stroke and other neurologic diseases.

"The importance of women's health issues has been highlighted with the establishment of the Office of Research on Women's Health through the National Institutes of Health and the Women's Health Initiative," Washington said. "These research efforts have not included neurologic disease, even though many neurologic diseases are more prevalent in women than in men. Additional experience in the treatment and documentation of these gender-specific disorders would be valuable to the medical community and would ultimately enhance the quality of patient care."

Information about the center is available through Emory HealthConnection at 778-7777.

-Lorri Preston

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