Abstract We undertook a prospective nationwide study to determine the incidence of photosensitive epilepsy (PE). Virtually all EEG departments in Great Britain (providing approximately 90% coverage of all EEGs performed on people with newly diagnosed seizures) screened cases referred to them over a 3 month period and identified all new cases of epilepsy (defined as one or more recognised seizures) whose first EEG showed a photoparoxysmal response (PPR) on intermittent photic stimulation (IPS). 191 cases were identified, 143 of whom had type 4 PPRs (generalised spike and wave on IPS) on their first EEG. The annual incidence of cases of epilepsy with type 4 PPRs on their first EEG was conservatively estimated to be 1.1 per 100,000, representing approximately 2% of all new cases of epilepsy. When restricted to the age range 7–19 years, the annual incidence rose to 5.7 per 100,000 — approximately 10% of all new cases of epilepsy presenting in this age range. To ascertain if there was a significant seasonal variation in PE, 5 EEG departments (which together contributed 15% of cases in the first study period) were visited during a second 3 month study period to identify all new cases of epilepsy with type 4 PPRs on their first EEG. No significant seasonal variation in incidence between summer and winter was found.