A photosensitive seizure is a seizure that results from exposure to certain visual stimuli such as flashing lights, bright lights, and/or bold or irregular moving patterns. Photosensitive seizures are a result of a rare form of epilepsy referred to as photosensitive epilepsy. Only a very small percentage of the population is known to have this photosensitive type of epilepsy and the majority of those diagnosed with it are adolescents.
A photosensitive seizure often presents itself in the same way as any other epileptic seizure, but a photosensitive seizure is only triggered by visual stimuli. The exact visual that triggers a photosensitive seizure varies from person to person. Typically, it is a combination of repeatedly flashing or rapidly moving lighted patterns such as those produced by strobe lights and emergency vehicles. However, the risk for a photosensitive seizure in most affected patients tends to increase in poor or dark lighting.
Traditionally, television has been the most common trigger of photosensitive seizures. The most infamous example of television capable of triggering a photosensitive seizure was an episode of the Japanese anime series Pokémon, which aired in 1997 and was banned after confirmation of a number of Japanese viewers suffering seizures. Since that episode, awareness of photosensitive seizures has increased and video games and other forms of recorded visual media carry a photosensitive seizure warning.
Though there is no cure for photosensitive epilepsy, its diagnosis is relatively uncommon. Those who are diagnosed and are at risk of a photosensitive seizure occurring are generally aware of potential triggers and can avoid them. There is also medication that can reduce a patient’s sensitivity. Many times, a person with photosensitive epilepsy is completely unaware of the condition until a situation triggers a seizure. Though a photosensitive seizure is a rare occurrence and can often be obviously linked to surroundings, any form of seizure requires medical attention and diagnosis.