To the parents of a child with epilepsy, the world may seem an especially dangerous place. If you have a child with epilepsy, you may secretly wish that you could surround your child with an entourage of nurses, or some protective bubble. All parents worry about horrible, what-if scenarios.
While these fears are perfectly natural, they generally aren't rooted in reality. The fact is that most kids with epilepsy do fine. In the vast majority of cases, they lead completely normal lives.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurrent seizures (more than two). A seizure is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Epilepsy may be the result of:
Irregularity in the wiring of the brain
Imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain)
Combination of these factors
In photosensitive epilepsy, genetics also plays a role.
About one in 100 people in the U.S. have epilepsy. About 3% to 5% of those people have photosensitive epilepsy.
Children and adolescents ages 7 to 19 are more likely to have photosensitive epilepsy. Girls are affected by the condition more often than boys. But boys tend to have more seizures. That's probably because they spend more time playing video games, a common seizure trigger.
What Causes Seizures in People With Photosensitive Epilepsy?
Seizure triggers vary from person to person. But some common triggers are:
Bright, contrasting patterns such as white bars against a black background
Flashing white light followed by darkness
Stimulating images that take up your complete field of vision, such as being very close to a TV screen
Certain colors, such as red and blue
Some specific examples of situations or events that can trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy are:
Nightclub and theater lights, including strobe lights
TV screens and computer monitors
Flashing lights on police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and safety alarms
Visual effects in movies, TV shows, and video games
Malfunctioning fluorescent lights and moving escalators
Light viewed through a fast-moving ceiling fan
Sunlight viewed through slanted blinds or stair railings
Sun shining through tree leaves or reflecting off water
Bold, striped wallpaper and fabric
Cameras with multiple flashes or many cameras flashing at the same time
Also, people with photosensitive epilepsy may be at increased risk for a seizure if they are:
Play video games too long without a break
What Are the Symptoms of Photosensitive Epilepsy?
There are many different types of seizures. People with photosensitive epilepsy typically have what's called a "generalized tonic-clonic seizure." This is also known as a convulsive seizure.
A tonic-clonic seizure should last no more than five minutes. Symptoms include:
Loss of consciousness and patient falls to the ground