Photosensitive epilepsy, how it is triggered and the decalogue of prevention

Flash and alternating light-induced epilepsy typically occurs in childhood and adolescence, especially girls. Here are the rules to prevent it

The American Epilepsy Foundation warns hypersensitives. For those who are particularly exposed to the risk of epilepsy induced by flashes, alternating lights and more, even some scenes from the last episode of the "Star Wars" saga could trigger a crisis.

The risk, extended more generally to intense and intermittent light stimuli, is also reiterated by the Italian League against Epilepsy (LICE): it should however be stressed that the problem can only exist for those suffering from photosensitive epilepsy, a particular neurological condition that arises generally in childhood and adolescence and affects a small percentage of people with epilepsy.

What does photosensitivity mean

Photosensitivity is a particular sensitivity to intermittent lights, so those who are affected can have seizures if they expose themselves to such stimuli. Photosensitivity, present as a genetic predisposition in one percent of the population, occurs more easily in the pubertal and adolescent period. That is, precisely in the age group in which the exposure to video games is greater.

Even if we don't perceive it, the television screen emits an intermittent light; sensitivity increases as you approach the screen and with repeated exposure to stimuli. Even if the crises triggered by video games and others do not recognize only this mechanism, photosensitivity is likely to be the most important causal factor.

Most of these patients, if they had not put themselves in this situation, would never have had a crisis. Girls are more affected by photosensitive epilepsy than male peers (ratio 3: 2). The latter, however, tend to have seizures more frequently caused by photosensitivity, most likely due to greater exposure to some triggering factors such as the use of video games.

For prevention, here are the expert's tips. "Photosensitivity is a condition that worries parents of children or adolescents with epilepsy very much" – explains Oriano Mecarelli, President of LICE, Department of Human Neuroscience at the La Sapienza University (Rome).

Mecarelli continues: "This individual characteristic is however regularly tested during the execution of the Electroencephalogram (EEG) and, once ascertained, the subjects and families are adequately informed so that they can take some precautions. The intake of antiepileptic drugs, fundamental for the control of crises, combined with the knowledge of the triggering causes and the consequent adoption of precise precautions, are of fundamental importance for containing the phenomenon of photosensitivity. If the patient cannot in any way avoid exposure to a risk factor, it is advisable to wear protective glasses equipped with special colored lenses or, if not available to him, it is useful that he cover his hand when viewing intermittent light stimuli one eye and immediately look away from the source of the disturbance ".

The decalogue of prevention

LICE suggests 10 important rules to prevent the onset of epileptic seizures in patients with photosensitive epilepsy when viewing intermittent light stimuli:

  • Illuminate the surrounding environment by placing a lit lamp near the screen and avoiding the penumbra
  • Watch TV and play video games without being too close to the screen
  • Adjust internet settings to control moving images
  • Use screens> 100 Hz or more modern technology and reduce the screen brightness setting
  • Limit the time spent in front of the video
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle by limiting stress and alcohol intake
  • Avoid pc, video games, tv when you are particularly tired
  • Choose video games that do not involve too much from an emotional point of view and in which the passages between images and colors are not excessively abrupt
  • If you go to discos, attend concerts or fireworks it is advisable not to stare at them for too long, frequently looking away from the intermittent lights
  • Outdoors, in the presence of intermittent bright lights, wear polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from bright light

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