Epilepsy affects about one in every 242 children in the UK. The disorder of the nervous system can cause recurring seizures, which disrupt the normal message exchange between brain cells.
Uncontrolled seizures can devastate children’s lives affecting their education and social development. Children with epilepsy frequently underperform at school – half achieve less than their IQ implies – and the condition can cause lasting harm.
About 70 per cent of sufferers find that medication can stop their seizures, but many anti-epilepsy drugs have unpleasant side-effects, which are particularly troublesome for young people. However, it doesn’t work for everyone.
Light therapy could be an alternative treatment for these children and teenagers. A pilot study suggests people with epilepsy suffer fewer seizures on sunny days than on overcast ones. Now a clinical trial, led by Dr Sallie Baxendale, aims to find out whether light therapy can reduce the number of seizures.
The volunteers taking part in this study kindly supported by The Penny in The Pound Fund and The Hedley Foundation all experience a particular type of seizure – a complex partial seizure – despite trying all suitable medication. If light therapy proves effective, further trials will look at other types of epilepsy.
Researchers believe the therapy would be cheap and widely available, with far fewer side-effects than much of the current medication. This could be a very significant breakthrough for children with epilepsy.