Photosensitive Epilepsy

Guidelines for Television

23 February 2009
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Since the 1950's television has been the most commonly reported trigger of seizures in photosensitive people. Originally it was thought that faulty functioning of TV sets was responsible, but it is now believed that neither this nor the usual movements of images on the screen seem to play any significant role in provoking epileptic seizures. The most important criterion is the nearness of the TV screen. The closer the person to the set the more the screen fills their entire field of vision and the greater the effect of the flicker frequency of the picture. Other associated factors can be tiredness and alcohol.

Guidelines for watching TV: A few simple procedures can be taken to avoid seizures resulting from watching TV.

  • The person should be seated at least three metres (ten feet) away from the set, and a lamp should be placed on top of the set to counteract the brightness of the screen.
  • Use the remote control to change channels.
  • A hand placed over one eye when approaching the screen will lessen the effects of the photic stimulation.

When purchasing a new TV set consider the following issues:

  • Most European sets are 50 hertz but it is possible to obtain 100 hertz sets which are standard in the U.S. and do not cause the problems associated with low flicker rates.
  • LCD (liquid crystal display) screens are flicker free.
  • The larger the set the more likely the image is to fill the entire visual field. Widescreen TV may be popular but the characteristics of the set and it's size may cause problems for susceptible individuals that a smaller, higher hertz or LCD set won't do.

Position of the TV set;

  • Ideally position the TV at the furthest end of the room where it is being viewed where viewer are seated 3 metres from the screen. Ensure the area around the set is kept well lit to avoid strong contrast. Keep trailing flexes to a minimum for safety reasons ideally tack them to a surface like skirting boards. Consider wall mounting the TV where practical as freestanding sets can be knocked over during seizures.
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