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Photosensitive Epilepsy

“Viewers are warned that the program contains flash cinematography.” It’s a common message we often come across when playing video games, watching videos on YouTube or watching a high graphical movie in a theatre. Well for normal person, flashing lights does no damage but for people with epilepsy it is considered a seizure trigger. Seizure occurring because of flashing lights is a part of photosensitive epilepsy. It is quite rare and only 2 people in every 100 people with epilepsy likely to suffer from it.

Photosensitive epilepsy is a type of epilepsy in which the seizure is triggered by flickering or flashing light. The light source can be natural or artificial. Lightning patterns like checks or strips can also cause seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy.

What Kinds Of Seizures Do People Experience With Photosensitive Epilepsy?

Watching a High Graphical Movie

Flickering lights may cause various kind of seizures such as:

  • Focal seizures
  • Myoclonic seizures
  • Tonic-clonic (Formerly known as grand mal seizures)
  • Absence (Formerly known as petit mal seizures)

Out of the above four seizure type, generalized tonic-clonic is the most common. The seizure generally takes place shortly after, or at the time of, looking at the flashing light.

Photosensitive epilepsy usually is experienced by teenagers and children, most commonly between the age group of 6 and 18. Photosensitive epilepsy is more a common incidence with girls than boys.

Also Read: Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy Treatment

Kinds of Flashing Lights That Can Trigger Seizures

It is not true that all flashing lights or high definition visual patterns will onset the seizure activity, even in individuals who have photosensitive epilepsy. The three main elements that trigger seizure due to flickering lights depend on its:

  • Rate of the flashing light
  • Intensity of the light
  • Duration of the flashing light

A flashing light which is between the frequency ranges of 15 to 20 flashes per second is the most probable trigger of seizure, however very few people reported that they are sensitive to a rate of 2 to 3 flashes per second.

The advent of electronics exposes quite a lot of population to a wide range of flickering or flashing light equipment. Such devices may cause a lot of trouble for people with photosensitive epilepsy. However, natural sources of flashing light, such as the glittering reflections off water or the effect of sunlight through blinds are also common seizure triggers.

How To Manage Photosensitive Epilepsy?

Well, to reduce the risks of a seizure trigger from flashing lights you can:

  • Buy a flat screen color television or look for televisions with ‘refresh rates’ of 100 hertz
  • Do not sit for long hours, take frequent breaks from the screen
  • Maintain a good distance from the screen
  • Get a new remote control if its broken to change channels
  • Watch television in a well-ventilated and well-lit room
  • Insist on working on a flat LCD monitor
  • Use internet options to remove or hide moving images

The use of special glasses may not stop seizure triggers in a photosensitive person, but they help to reduce its effects. Contact your optometrist so that he can prescribe photochromic or colored glasses to reduce the sensitivity of the light or visual distractions. Special polarizing glasses can also help reduce seizure trigger from natural light sources such as sunlight on water.

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