Photosensitivity in idiopathic generalized epilepsies

Epilepsia. 2005;46 Suppl 9:67-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2005.00315.x.


Photosensitivity is an abnormal visual sensitivity of the brain in reaction to flickering light sources or patterns and is expressed in the electroencephalogram as generalized spike-and-wave discharge and in more susceptible individuals as clinical seizures. The most common types of seizures are generalized tonic-clonic, followed by myoclonic and absence. The photosensitive epilepsies are classified as pure photosensitive, where seizures occur only with the flickering light source/pattern or during intermittent photic stimulation (IPS) in the laboratory, and epilepsy with photosensitivity, where spontaneous seizures also occur. Positive response to IPS in idiopathic epilepsy syndromes, which are included in the International Classification or are in development, is reported to range from 7.5% in juvenile absence epilepsy to 100% in pure photosensitive epilepsy. The treatment of photosensitivity and pure photosensitive epilepsy with rare seizures includes general and specific protective measures. For most patients, however, combination treatment with antiepileptic drugs is necessary. Valproic acid monotherapy has a success rate of 73-86%. Levetiracetam appears to be a new alternative therapeutic option. Clobazam, lamotrigine, ethosuximide, and topiramate also have been recommended as second-choice therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Comorbidity
  • Electroencephalography / statistics & numerical data
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Syndrome


  • Anticonvulsants