December 16, 1997, children across Japan gathered around their television sets to watch an episode of Pokemon. 700 of them could however never watch it till the end due to a common medical phenomenon.
Children across the country experienced a wave of seizures after they watched a seemingly innocuous scene where Pikachu (a character in the show) displayed a colourful strobe of his lightning powers.
"But why would an episode from an otherwise harmless cartoon show cause seizures in children?"
The dramatic moment was the climax of the episode where two colours - red and blue- flashed rapidly on the screen, at the rate of 12 flashes per second for almost 6 seconds. It was quite intense and disorienting and was believed to be the trigger in people with photosensitive epilepsy. The episode has since then been banned for broadcast, even in its edited form.
Photosensitive epilepsy is a condition in which exposure to flashing lights at high intensities or to specific visual patterns can trigger seizures in children and adolescents.
3% of all people with epilepsy experience photosensitivity. However, it usually subsides with age.
Most people are unaware of their condition and may not even know until they have an epileptic episode after being exposed to certain patterns or flickering lights. They may never go on to develop epilepsy with spontaneous seizures. They could just have seizures triggered by certain photic conditions.
Watching a child suffer through a seizure can be a harrowing experience for most parents. It can be caused due to a single or combination of factors like:
However, you can watch out for the following signs and symptoms of epilepsy:
During the seizure, your child’s lips may become tinted blue and his or her breathing may not be normal. After the seizure, your child may be sleepy or confused.
The symptoms of a seizure may be like those of other health conditions. Ensure your child is taken to a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Epileptic seizures may be triggered by exposure to:
Some games will offer an epileptic warning to help prevent players from experiencing seizures and while many developers are aware of the problem epileptics face when picking up that controller, it still seems overlooked by many during actual game development. Triggers to watch out for include:
The frequency or speed of flashing light that is most likely to cause seizures varies from person to person. Generally, flashing lights most likely to trigger seizures are between the frequency of 5 to 30 flashes per second (Hertz).
Here are some of the best ways to reduce the risk of seizures in your child:
Children with epilepsy have a higher risk of drowning, especially in bathtubs or pools.
A major problem surrounding epilepsy management stems from a lack of awareness and understanding of epilepsy among Indians.
Despite being one of the most common chronic non-communicable brain disorders, Epilepsy has been the subject of social stigma for generations. As a matter of fact, a large sub-section of the Indian diaspora continues to consult faith healers, shamans’, black magic practitioners, and exorcists instead of the qualified opinions of trained professionals.
About 95% of epileptic patients do not get treatment either due to the lack of medical facilities or due to the unawareness about the disease treatment. Unavailability of antiepileptic drugs may also be one of the factors of this disease remaining untreated.
Epilepsy is considered as a curse, and epileptic patients are abandoned and discriminated from society. Epileptic patients and their families go through the pressures of social fear, misunderstanding, social discrimination in their personal and professional life.
With the advancement of science and technology, epilepsy is no more a grievous disorder. However, in most of the part of our country, it is thought to be untreatable. As a matter of fact, only 60% of the patients from urban areas and 10% of patients from rural areas actually end up seeking proper medical care for the disease.
Your child may not need medicine for life. Some children are taken off medicine if they have had no seizures for 1 to 2 years. This will be determined by your child's healthcare provider.
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