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Gaming can be epilepsy trigger,say PGI doctors

Researchers at Chandigarh’s Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research say they have found an apparent link between excessive gaming and incidence of photosensitive epilepsy in children and young teenagers.

Written by Smriti Sharma Vasudeva | Chandigarh |
March 8, 2011 3:28:55 am

Researchers at Chandigarh’s Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) say they have found an apparent link between excessive gaming and incidence of photosensitive epilepsy (PSE) in children and young teenagers.

Doctors at PGIMER’s neurology department said 5-8 of the average 50 patients who visit the OPD weekly are found to suffer from PSE. “About 5 per cent cases of epilepsy in children between the ages of 5 and 15 years are due to photosensitivity triggered by excessive TV viewing involving fast-moving visuals,and over-exposure to video and computer games,” said Dr Vivek Lal,additional professor in the department.

PSE is a type of epilepsy in which all,or almost all,seizures are triggered by flashing or flickering light,which can be either natural or artificial. Patterns like stripes or checks can trigger seizures in some cases. In itself,PSE is not an uncommon condition; however,the apparent connection between PSE and the popular playthings of children is worrying,said doctors.

“Video games and cartoons are all the latest trigger points among children,” said Dr Lal,who,along with colleagues at PGIMER’s department of community medicine,Dr Sonu Goel and Dr Amarjeet Singh,recently put together a training manual on epilepsy and its management for teachers and patients.

“These days parents buy their children fancy video games and gaming consoles. The child is hooked,and carries the games with him all the time. Prolonged exposure to fast-moving visuals can trigger an epileptic attack. For that matter,even flickering light bulbs can act as triggers,” Dr Lal said.

Dr Lal said “the first thing” he asks parents to do is ensure that their children stop playing video games and “keep TV-watching to the bare minimum”.

“We also ask patients not to stop medicines when they see signs of improvement. That is when things actually get worse,” he said.

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