Epilepsy blamed on computer, TV screens

Updated: 2007-02-10 09:36

A Chinese academic has warned that an unusual type of epilepsy, characterized by seizures triggered by flashing or flickering lights, is becoming more prevalent among young people.

Photosensitive epilepsy, though uncommon, is affecting people aged between 8 and 20 in China, said Professor Qin Jiong from No 1 Hospital of Peking University at a meeting in Beijing.

Qin blamed the increased prevalence on numerous hours spent by young people watching TV and playing video games. The flickering light from monitors can trigger photosensitive epilepsy.

Statistics show that about 6 million people in China suffer from epilepsy. Experts estimate that about 3 to 5 percent of people with epilepsy are photosensitive.

Both artificial and natural light sources that stimulate the eyes might be a problem for people with photosensitive epilepsy.

For example, camera flashes, strobe lights in discos and sunlight shining off wet surfaces or through tree leaves could all trigger seizures.

Experts said that about 30 percent of photosensitive epileptic patients can control their seizures by taking drugs.

Prevention measures in the home and office include installing filter screens in front of TV and computer monitors, watching TV at a safe distance and using soft lighting, experts said.

Experts called for an end to social discrimination against epileptics, saying that even if epileptics suffer temporary mental disorders they are usually normal intellectually.

The Ministry of Health said in June last year that more than two-thirds of epileptic patients in rural China had not received treatment that could allow them to lead a normal life.

China plans to expand a pilot project in 80 counties to improve the treatment of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder and symptoms range from minor lapses of attention to severe and prolonged convulsions and loss of consciousness. Many cases are caused by an underlying brain disease or injury, but children often develop the condition for no obvious reason.

Worldwide clinical research shows that about 70 percent of epileptics can control their seizures by taking anti-epilepsy drugs, and up to 60 percent of them can be treated in two to five years and lead a normal life.

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