Epilepsy Awareness – Impact on Vision


Epilepsy is a neurological condition affecting approximately 50 million individuals worldwide. Though there are several types of epilepsy, the condition is primarily characterized by recurrent seizures stemming from abnormal brain activity. These seizures manifest as sudden bursts of electrical activity, resulting in a myriad of symptoms. Yet, what’s lesser known is the potential impact epilepsy can have on eye function.

Read on to learn more about the impact of epilepsy, specifically its influence on an overlooked aspect of this condition: vision.

Epilepsy awareness: how epilepsy impacts vision

As epilepsy disrupts the body’s communication pathways, it affects the eyes’ ability to send and receive messages effectively. This disruption varies depending on the specific area of the brain where the seizure originates. Consequently, the eyes may experience impairment in their normal functioning due to the neurological disturbances caused by epilepsy.

Through eye symptoms such as loss of awareness, consciousness, disruptions in movement, sensation, mood, and cognitive functions, doctors are studying how a seizure affecting the eyes can help them assess whether the seizure is epileptic or non-epileptic.

What are common ways epilepsy impacts visual impairment?

  1. Jerking of the eyes – One common manifestation is the jerking of the eyes, where rapid, involuntary movements occur. This phenomenon, known as nystagmus, can significantly impair visual acuity and coordination, resulting in the individual having no control over this movement. Similarly, another prevalent symptom, eyelid fluttering, disrupts normal eye function, leading to temporary blurred vision and discomfort.
  2. Staring into space – Staring into space, often observed during absence seizures, reflects a momentary loss of awareness accompanied by vacant eye expression. While seemingly innocuous, this symptom underscores the profound impact of epilepsy on cognitive and visual functions.
  3. Eye deviation – this is where the eyes deviate from their normal alignment. It can occur during seizures originating from specific brain regions. This deviation affects vision and may indicate the focal point of epileptic activity within the brain.
  4. Loss of field or depth perception – Loss of field or depth perception, a less recognized symptom, can significantly impact daily activities such as driving and navigating spaces safely.
  5. Individuals may struggle to gauge distances accurately or perceive the spatial relationships between objects.Photosensitivity – Characterized by heightened sensitivity to light, exacerbates seizure frequency in some individuals. Exposure to certain light patterns or intensities can trigger seizures, necessitating precautions such as wearing tinted glasses or avoiding bright environments.
  6. Auras – Described as sensory disturbances preceding seizures, often involving visual phenomena such as flashing lights or visual distortions. Recognizing these warning signs enables individuals to take proactive measures and seek safety during impending seizures.

    Book your appointment

    For more information or advice about specialized treatment options, do not hesitate to contact our optometrists in Ontario. Our friendly team would be happy to help you.