Nystagmus is a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements. These movements often result in reduced vision and depth perception and can affect balance and coordination.
These involuntary eye movements can occur from side to side, up and down, or in a circular pattern. As a result, both eyes are unable to steadily view objects. People with nystagmus might nod and hold their heads in unusual positions to compensate for the condition.
Generally, nystagmus is a symptom of another eye or medical problem. Fatigue and stress can make nystagmus worse. However, the exact cause is often unknown.
The forms of nystagmus include:
Nystagmus is most commonly caused by a neurological problem that is present at birth or develops in early childhood. Acquired nystagmus, which occurs later in life, can be the symptom of another condition or disease, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or trauma.
Other causes of nystagmus include:
Nystagmus can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam. Testing for nystagmus, with special emphasis on how the eyes move, may include:
Using the information obtained from testing, your optometrist can determine if you have nystagmus and advise you on treatment options.
While eyeglasses and contact lenses do not correct the nystagmus itself, they can sometimes improve vision. Using large-print books, magnifying devices and increased lighting can also be helpful.
Some types of nystagmus improve throughout childhood. Rarely, surgery is performed to change the position of the muscles that move the eyes. While this surgery does not cure nystagmus, it may reduce how much a person needs to turn his or her head for better vision.
If another health problem is causing the nystagmus, your optometrist will often work with your primary care physician or other medical specialists to treat that underlying cause.