EPILEPSY AND TELEVISION

Lynn Savill, 13 St George’s Crescent, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 4AR.
Telephone: 01474 351673

Photosensitive epilepsy is the name given to the type of epilepsy in which epileptic seizures are caused by flickering lights encountered in everyday life Both natural and artificial light sources may cause seizures, but the commonest cause appears to be television.

The amount of people suffering with photosensitive epilepsy is comparatively rare. It is estimated to be about one in every ten thousand of the population. Photosensitive epilepsy usually occurs below the age of 20 years and the condition appears lo be most common between the ages of 6 & 12. Females are more affected by photosensitivity than males. There is evidence too, of a genetic factor in this condition.

The first report of seizures being provoked by watching television was made in the early 1950’s, Attacks reported at this time were thought to have been provoked by television sets which were defective or in which the vertical hold was faulty, causing the picture to roll. Further investigation, however, has shown that seizures may also be provoked by a normally functioning television,

The important factor, is the large area of the retina which is stimulated by the flicker frequency of the picture on a television set that is working normally. The nearer the person is to the set, the more the picture is filling the field of vision and so it is more likely to cause or trigger a fit/seizure.

Attacks may occur for a number of reasons: a) the person is \watching a faulty set b) adjusting the set c) is too close to the set. Other factors include the angle from which the set is being watched, sensitivity to geometric patterns and the effects of tiredness and alcohol.

Simple measures may be taken to avoid having a seizure when watching television. The set should be watched in a well lit room, from a distance of about 2.5 metres or more. It may also help to have a small table lamp on top of the set. The person should avoid, if possible, adjusting or switching channels of the set- You are advised that if you are susceptible to having an attack whilst watching TV, it would be helpful if you placed one hand over one of your eyes to reduce the flicker when watching.

Other factors with photosensitive epilepsy also include sunlight being reflected off wet surfaces, sunlight through leaves of trees, or when moving rapidly past railings illuminated by sun shining through them. Flashing lights (as in a disco) or fluorescent lighting may also provoke seizures,

The wearing of polarised sunglasses outdoors on a sunny day can be helpful in removing reflections (from water etc). However, ordinary sunglasses do not appear to offer any help.

Computer screens rarely present any problems to the person with epilepsy, but domestic televisions
as a display are likely to be a greater risk.

For further information please contact us (name & telephone above)
Leaflet produced by Gravesend Epilepsy Network

Registered Charily No. 802373