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Epilepsy Health Center

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Photosensitive Epilepsy

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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
  • Muscles contract and body stiffens
  • Patient cries out
  • Breathing pattern changes
  • Patient bites tongue and inside of cheeks
  • Limbs jerk or twitch as muscles tighten and relax
  • Loss of bladder control

When the seizure ends, the muscles relax and the person slowly regains consciousness. After the seizure, the person may:

  • Be confused
  • Feel tired
  • Have memory loss for a short time
  • Have a headache
  • Feel sore

Recovery time varies. Some people are able to return to normal activity soon after a seizure. Others may need to rest.

What to Do During a Seizure

It's not possible to stop a seizure once it has started. If you see a person having a seizure, take these steps:

  • Roll the person onto his or her side to prevent choking.
  • Cushion the head.
  • Loosen any tight clothing around the neck.
  • Keep the airway open. Grip the jaw gently and tilt the head back, if necessary.
  • Remove any objects that he or she may hit during the seizure.
  • Don't restrict the person's movement unless he or she is in danger.
  • Don't put anything into the person's mouth, including medicine or liquid. Doing so could cause choking.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure has passed or emergency personnel have arrived.


When to Call 911

Call 911 if:

  • You know the person is pregnant or has diabetes.
  • The seizure occurs in water.
  • The seizure lasts longer than five minutes.
  • The person doesn't regain consciousness after the seizure stops, another seizure starts before they regain consciousness, or they stop breathing.
  • Injury occurs as a result of the seizure.

Try to keep track of how long the seizure lasts and what symptoms occur so you can tell a doctor or emergency personnel.

How Is Photosensitive Epilepsy Treated?

There is no cure for photosensitive epilepsy. However, anti-epileptic medicines may reduce the frequency of seizures.

People with photosensitive epilepsy can also reduce the likelihood of having a seizure by avoiding stimuli that could trigger a seizure. If you are inadvertently exposed to a trigger, cover one eye completely and turn your head away from the source of disturbance.

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