Shining A Light: Photosensitive Epilepsy


Photosensitive Epilepsy: For those diagnosed with Epilepsy, it is a sensitivity to certain lights, flashing lights and bold contrasting visual patterns such as stripes or checks which can trigger seizures.

How common is Photosensitive Epilepsy? Around 1 in 100 people has epilepsy and of these people, up to 5% have photosensitive epilepsy.

Seizure triggers vary from person to person. Here is a list of some common triggers courtesy of WebMD:

  • Flashing light
  • Bright, contrasting patterns such as white bars against a black background
  • Flashing white light followed by darkness
  • Stimulating images that take up your complete field of vision, such as being very close to a TV screen
  • Certain colors, such as red and blue

Here are some examples of situations or events that can trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy courtesy of WebMD:

  • Nightclub and theater lights, including strobe lights
  • TV screens and computer monitors
  • Flashing lights on police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and safety alarms
  • Visual effects in movies, TV shows, and video games
  • Malfunctioning fluorescent lights and moving escalators
  • Light viewed through a fast-moving ceiling fan
  • Sunlight viewed through slanted blinds or stair railings
  • Sun shining through tree leaves or reflecting off water
  • Bold, striped wallpaper and fabric
  • Cameras with multiple flashes or many cameras flashing at the same time
  • Fireworks

Also, people with photosensitive epilepsy may be at increased risk for a seizure if they are:

  • Tired
  • Intoxicated
  • Play video games too long without a break

I am one of the 5% of people diagnosed with Epilepsy who also suffers from Photosensitive Epilepsy. Discovering new triggers almost each and every day. I’ve taken steps to minimize my exposure to triggers. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it only helps so much. I never leave home without sunglasses. Rain or shine I wear them. I wear them inside stores that use fluorescent lighting and along a sunset drive as the bright lights strobe through the tree branches.  At times it does give me an innocent laugh as I feel as though I am a real-life vampire vulnerable to light. But Photosensitive Epilepsy is a real-life situation and the effects it has truly is no laughing matter.

How can you tell if you have Photosensitive Epilepsy? Many are aware if they have a seizure when exposed to flashing lights or patterns. When an EEG is performed to help with a diagnosis a flashing light test (photic stimulation) can show if you are photosensitive. By monitoring any changes in brain activity, the test can be stopped before a seizure happens. A tonic clonic (convulsive) seizure is the most common type of seizure that is triggered by photosensitivity. A photosensitive trigger will usually trigger a seizure instantly.

If you find yourself in a Photosensitive Epilepsy trigger situation, cover your eyes until the trigger is no longer a threat. Also be mindful of what triggers your epilepsy and avoid these situations as best as possible. If need be, remind those around you of your triggers so that they can help you avoid them too.



I am a happily-ever-after wife, an Epilepsy Diagnosee, Advocate for Epilepsy Awareness (The Epilepsy Network), life lover & Christ inspired! Life is a journey and I'm loving every moment of it. Even the bumps in the road!


  • sasha goodman

    My 6 year old daughter has sunflower syndrome…sunglasses and hats help, but not all the time. Has anyone recovered/grown out of this? I would greatly appreciate any suggestions, treatments, etc. Thank you…

  • Cori McDaniels

    Hi Tiffany my daughter is 13 and had no prior medical problems until Oct of 2013….she had a seizure ( full tonic clonic) inside a haunted house the day before Halloween sue to a strobe light. She had another one 1 week later during the light part if her sleep deprived EEG. ( They induced a seizure and did NOT stop it in time before it happened much to our disappointment).
    Anyways, we are currently trying to figure out what all of her triggers are. I would love to connect with more photosensitive people! Her neurologist has very limited information on the photosensitive epilepsy unfortunately.

  • Jeanne Phelps

    Hi Tiffany, I don’t have Photosensitive Epilepsy. But, my Daughter does. So, between My Homework & my Daughters’ experiences, I know quite a bit about photosensitivity Issues w/ Epilepsy. Something ‘New’ I learned here on FB, is that there is another Type of Photosensitivity Epilepsy. It is known as the ‘Sunflower Syndrome’. A Rare disorder that affects mainly children. They are drawn toward the Sun & wave their hand in front of their face which causes the ‘flickering’ similar to flashing lights in trees. The desire to move toward the sun & use the Hand is uncontrollable. You can read more about the ‘Sunflower Syndrome’ here on Facebook.

  • Jessica Solodar

    In addition to the people diagnosed with epilepsy who are photosensitive there are an unknown and vastly underestimated number of others who also have seizures triggered by light and patterns. Public policy in the US disregards this…so that epileptogenic images are broadcast on TV, in online music videos, and in countless video games. Warnings are pathetically inadequate, particularly for people who are unaware they have photosensitivity.

  • Dree Williams

    I’m a part of the vampire club as well! I wear my sunglasses almost 24/7…including into the stores. I’ve discovered the worst stores for me are WalMart, Kmart, and of course the mall. For some reason I don’t have as big of an issue in grocery stores or Target…but I do always have the sunglasses at least in my pocket just in case! I’m a pro at “burying my head” while emergency vehicles drive past…I also have friends that put one hand over my eyes and another hand on the back of my head holding it down just in case!

  • Jo Mumford

    Hi Tiffany, I’m in the vampire club too. I wear my sunglasses like they’re surgically attached to my head. Your not alone. If people say anything to me,…., normally in the winter I just tell them the truth…. But have had a joke with some and said yeah I hate garlic too! ha ha keep the world purple
    Love Jo xxx

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