One eye at a time: prevent seizures with an eye patch

an eye patch to protect against video game seizuresIf video games cause you to have seizures, there are certain things you can do to prevent them. The standard recommendations by doctors are:

  • Avoid exposure – stay away from any games that provoke seizures
  • Limit exposure by taking frequent breaks, sitting at a distance from the screen, and turning down the screen brightness setting
  • Avoid playing when fatigued, stressed, or sleep-deprived
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which lower the brain’s seizure threshold
  • Certain anti-convulsant drugs may help, particularly Depakote (valproate), Lamictal (lamotrigine), Topamax (topiramate), Keppra (levetiracetam), and Frisium (clobazam), a benzodiazepine not yet approved by the FDA for use in the US
  • Cover one eye

Let’s say you have seizures only from video games. You may not want to start taking anti-seizure medications, which have many side effects. You also may not feel like taking breaks during play, staying far from the screen, or limiting your caffeine and alcohol. A simple way to protect yourself from visually induced seizures is to cover one eye with a patch during gaming.

Researchers have found that if only one eye is exposed to the flickering screen, a smaller area of the brain’s cortex is affected than when both eyes are exposed. The difference is significant enough to greatly reduce the likelihood of a seizure. You may need to try covering first one eye while you play and then the other eye, to determine if there’s a difference in the effectiveness — but covering either eye may be equally effective. Simply closing both eyes (without covering them) in the presence of flashing light does not provide seizure protection because the light penetrates the eyelids. (This is why, when photic stimulation is performed as part of an EEG, the eyes are closed for part of the procedure.)

Note:  For those who have an addiction to video games, the eye patch may not work. Photosensitivity could be at the root of the game addiction — because a compulsive attraction to the screen (or other seizure-provoking visual stimulus) is one symptom of photosensitivity. The uncontrollable attraction seems to be a related to an impulse to provoke seizures. In such cases, those who try the eye patch are unlikely to tolerate using it and will remove it. If you can put up with the patch, though, you are probably not going to need additional protection from video game seizures. Given the low cost of an eye patch (about $3.00 at drug stores), absence of side effects, and lack of  lifestyle constraints, this could be a solution worth trying.

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