What is nystagmus?

Nystagmus is condition that usually affects both eyes, It is an involuntary and rhythmic motion of the eyes, either a circular motion, or up and down or side to side. It occurs with a variety of conditions. The movements can last only a few seconds or they can be permanent.

Symptoms of nystagmus

The main symptom experienced by patients with nystagmus is the sensation that the world around them is constantly moving (this is know as oscillopsia).

Often nystagmus can be present together with problems affecting the brain or the inner ear. Patients with this correlation will also experience vertigo, loss of balance, and dizziness.

Blurry vision and jumping vision are two other common symptoms.  

Causes of nystagmus

  • Nystagmus can be congenital.
  • It can also be cased by diseases affecting the balance mechanisms in your inner ear or the brainstem (the back part of your brain).
  • Other neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis can also be associated with nystagmus symptoms.

When to seek medical attention

If you are experiencing nystagmus for the first time and it you are also experiencing a new dizziness or vertigo, you should see and ophthalmologist promptly. They may refer you to a neurologist or neuro-ophthalmologist to assess the origin of your symptoms.

Tests may include an MRI of your brain or some blood tests to ensure that the cause of your symptoms are not due to something life-threatening such as a stroke..

Treatment for nystagmus

Some types of nystagmus, especially in children, are temporary and can improve with time.

Glasses and contact lenses do not correct the nystagmus, but in some cases they can improve vision. Large-print books and magnifying vision aids can also be helpful to cope with the condition.

Surgery that repositions the muscles that move the eyes is also an option. This is helpful because it will reduce the need to turn your head to see better, but it doesn’t cure nystagmus itself.

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