Photosensitivity in Epileptic Syndromes of Childhood and Adolescence

Epileptic Disord. 2008 Jun;10(2):136-43. doi: 10.1684/epd.2008.0183.


Purpose: Photosensitivity, a reaction of the brain to external photic stimulation, can be graded from 1 to 4, and is most frequently seen in the first decades of life. This study investigated photosensitivity in children with epilepsy.

Methods: A retrospective study performed in the neuropaediatric department of the largest paediatric hospital in Kiel, treating patients at all medical care levels. The clinical data and EEG records of 566 patients with the most common epileptic syndromes were analyzed, in particular regarding photosensitivity. Their EEGs included application of intermittent light stimulation using standard techniques at twice the minimum.

Results: The proportion of photosensitive patients was significantly higher in the paediatric cohort than in adult patients, as published in the literature: 46% of patients with generalized epilepsies showed photosensitivity as compared to 20% with focal epilepsies. Photosensitivity was more common in idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE), (epilepsy with grand mal on awakening, 74%; juvenile absence epilepsy, 56%; juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, 50%; childhood absence epilepsy, 44%) than in focal types (idiopathic partial - Rolandic epilepsy, 23%; symptomatic/cryptogenic type of epilepsy, 16%), while in patients who experienced occasional seizures (neonatal/febrile seizures), this ranged between 40% and 23%, respectively. The generalized photoparoxysmal response, (PPR), grades 3 and 4 were found significantly more often in patients with IGE (92%) than in patients with focal epilepsies. Finally, the female preponderance was confirmed (37% to 27% of all epilepsies).

Conclusions: Photosensitivity can be detected both in patients with IGE, with idiopathic and symptomatic/cryptogenic types of focal epilepsies, and with epileptic (occasional) seizures. PPR grades 3 and 4 are the most common in IGE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / drug therapy
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Sex Factors
  • Syndrome


  • Anticonvulsants