Have you ever
been in a room or watched a movie with a rapidly flashing light? Did looking at
it make you feel ill? You’re not alone.
A strobe light
is a light that flashes regularly, sometimes as rapidly as once every few milliseconds.
They are often used for special effects both in movies and in real life, often
to create the illusion of slow or backwards motion.
have been known to cause flicker vertigo, a condition in which disorientation,
nausea, rapid blinking, rapid eye movement, and muscle rigidity are known
symptoms. Fortunately, these are temporary symptoms, and most will disappear
almost immediately after the strobing effect stops. However, in extremely rare
cases, patients have been identified as having persistent loss of bodily
functions and a loss of muscle and motor response.
is caused by strobe light flashing of 1 to 20 Hz, about the frequency of human
brainwaves. The human eye can see up to 60 Hz.
symptoms are similar to those of epilepsy, although it has not been seen solely
in people who have epilepsy.
Of course, the
most infamous effect of strobe lights is epileptic seizures. Epilepsy is a
disorder where nerve cell activity is disturbed, causing seizures. Photosensitive
epilepsy is epilepsy triggered by certain light frequencies, and affects about
3 percent of people with epilepsy. While most common in children and teenagers,
it has been seen in adults. People who have photosensitive epileptic seizures
often experience loss of consciousness, muscle contractions, changing breathing
patterns, biting their tongues, jerking and twitching, and loss of bladder
to note that strobe lights themselves aren’t the only cause of photosensitive epilepsy.
Anything with a low flicker rate, including televisions, emergency vehicle
lights, and shimmering water can trigger a seizure.
If you or
someone you know is affected by strobing lights, do what you can to minimize strobing
effects. Purchased LCD and flat-screen TVs and computer monitors, and avoid
extended periods of time in front of the screen. Take frequent breaks to look
away from your screen (which has the added bonus of helping with eyestrain). Wearing
polarized lenses and using monitor guards can help reduce glare. Also, make sure
rooms are well-lit and the brightness of the screen is reduced.
home, avoid situations like bars and nightclubs that may use strobe lights. If
you are caught in a room with a strobe light, cover one eye, turn away from the
source, and try to leave the area.
Strobe lights may
create a neat effect, but for the sake of the health of people around you,
please be cautious when using them.
This blog is for informational
purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New
patients can make appointments online with our eye doctors in North
and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with
physicians they have already seen.