NEWS

Watching TV can cause epilepsy

Some 100,000 Greeks who suffer from epilepsy live under the daily fear of a prospective seizure – one third of them children – as well as the embarrassment such an episode could cause them among ill-informed bystanders, forcing them to keep their illness a secret. One form that the illness takes is light-sensitive epilepsy which appears mainly in children between five-19 years of age after prolonged exposure to intense changes of light, colors and shapes, and which often develops during TV watching. In Greece every year as many as 80 youths exhibit the initial symptoms of epilepsy, caused after their exposure to television or computer screens, noted Athanasios Kovanis, president of the Greek National Union Against Epilepsy and director of the Aghia Sophia Hospital Neurological Department. Kovanis was speaking on Monday at a news conference held in advance of the 7th Mediterranean Conference on Epilepsy to take place at the Holiday Inn hotel in Athens tomorrow through November 25. According to Kovanis, 25 of these youths suffer an epileptic seizure while playing video games and he stressed that the parents of children who exhibit these signs should have a small TV set at home – no larger than 14 inches – and require the children to sit no closer than two and a half meters from the screen. Moreover, the room where the television is placed should have ample light and they should avoid changing the channels too often. In case an epileptic episode reoccurs, medication may be required. In his news conference address and commenting on epilepsy in general, Kovanis stated that over 50 million people worldwide suffer from this defect in the brain and it is estimated that 5 percent of the world population will experience an epileptic seizure in the course of their lives. Concerning treatment of the illness, the majority of sufferers – between 65 and 95 percent, depending on the type of epilepsy – show a positive response to medication, while for 80 percent of children epilepsy is self-regulated after adolescence. If for some reason a patient does not respond to medication, then surgery has proved to be an alternative treatment. According to Kovanis, if one finds oneself next to a person who is having an epileptic seizure- which usually lasts less than five minutes – one should turn the individual on his or her side and place a pillow under their head. What one should never do, contrary to what most people believe, is to place any object in the person’s mouth.