Medical Q&As

Photosensitive epilepsy - drugs responsible?

My 17-year-old daughter has severe acne and has been prescribed Dianette. She has photosensitive epilepsy and is not on any other medication. Is it safe for her to take the Dianette?

Dianette is a very effective treatment for acne and there is no need for you to be concerned about your daughter taking it. Photosensitive epilepsy is triggered by flickering light and is not affected by taking medication. The commonest culprit in triggering these fits is the television set. The key consideration here is the total area of the retina that is stimulated by the flicker frequency of the picture on the television. Put simply the closer a subject sits to the television the greater the area of retina that is being filled by the picture. Simple measures may be taken to avoid having a seizure whilst watching television. The set should always be viewed in a well-lit room and it may be helpful to place a small illuminated table lamp on the television set. It should be watched from a distance of at least 2.5 metres. The person should use a remote control unit for changing channels or adjusting picture quality because approaching the set to do this manually could trigger a fit. Since so many people now work with computers it is worth mentioning that VDUs rarely present any risk to the person with photosensitive epilepsy. Most modern computer displays have a flicker frequency greater than 60 per second, which is most unlikely to trigger a reaction. Computer displays with liquid crystal screens are flicker free. However, there are still some computer games where a conventional television monitor is used and these have the same drawbacks as television. Other factors that can trigger fits include flashing disco lights and flickering fluorescent light bulbs. It may also be triggered by sunlight shining through a row of trees or railings as the person moves quickly by. Having listed these various causes of photosensitive epilepsy it is worth repeating that television is the commonest trigger factor of these fits. You need not worry about Dianette.