Nystagmus


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Nystagmus is the state of health of the eye, where the eyeballs are moving fast and in an uncontrolled manner. They can move:

  • from side to side (horizontal nystagmus)
  • up and down (vertical nystagmus)
  • in a circle (rotary nystagmus).

Uncontrolled eye movement can vary between slow and fast movements, and most commonly affects both eyes. In some directions, the eyes can move much more frequently. People suffering from the disease can gain a better view by tilt or turn the head, in addition to helping in this way to slow down eye movements.

This disease can have two forms – congenital and acquired. The first one begins in infancy, usually manifesting in age from 6 weeks to 3 months of life. In children with this condition, the problem mostly affects both eyes, often causing blurry vision, sometimes it’s disease inherited.

In the case of an acquired problem, the nystagmus can have many causes, both related to medical conditions and excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol. In contrast to the form of congenital nystagmus, sufferers acquired most often complain about the shaking of view.

The causes of nystagmus

Nystagmus is a lack of control over the movement of the eyes. Our eyes move automatically when we slightly move our head, which in turn helps to stabilize the image we see, so we see clearly. In people with the disease, areas of the brain responsible for controlling eye movements do not work properly.

Many cases do not have a particular cause, but it is possible that the disease is related to other eye problems. This unpleasant health issue may involve:

  • inheritance – family history of the nystagmus,
  • albinism – a lack of color or pigment in the skin,
  • a wide range of eye diseases like cataract, strabismus or concentration problems,
  • diseases of the inner ear like Meniere’s disease,
  • multiple sclerosis,
  • contractions – the most common cause of nystagmus in the elderly,
  • head injuries,
  • use of certain medications, such as those based on lithium or anticonvulsants,
  • excessive use of alcohol and drugs.

Symptoms of nystagmus

The main symptom of the disease is rapid eye movement, which can not be controlled. Usually, this movement is done on the sides, but can also follow it up and down, as well as the circle. Movements also have different speed and are usually present in both eyes simultaneously.

In addition to the sudden movements of the eyeballs, the disease also reveals:

  • sensitivity to light,
  • dizziness,
  • the difficulty with seeing in the dark,
  • vision problems
  • the inclined or twisted position of the head,
  • feeling that everything around shaking.

Diagnosis and treatment of nystagmus

The disease is recognized by an ophthalmologist by the internal examination of the eye and basic visual research. The optometrist also examines whether other eye problems that can be associated with nystagmus, like cataracts or problems with the retina or optic nerve.


There are also tests such as:

  • recording of eye work – to determine the type of nystagmus and evaluation of individual eye movements,
  • examination of the ears,
  • neurological examination,
  • test showing brain works like CT and MRI.

Treatment of the disease depends on the cause. The disease is incurable, but we can improve visual comfort by using glasses or contact lenses – which do not improve the condition but can increase the clarity of vision, and slow eye movements.

Some cases allow for a surgical procedure that helps to control the work of the muscles responsible for the movement of the eyeballs. This procedure enables the patient to maintain a comfortable position of the head and can reduce eye movements.

There are cases where the disease is passing, but they are associated with the cure of another medical condition, the symptom of which was a nystagmus. Sometimes, after appropriate treatment or rejection of drugs and alcohol, the nystagmus also resolves.

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