What is it?

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.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of Nystagmus may include:
- Involuntary eye movement.
- Movement can be in one eye or both.
- Objects may appear blurry and shaky.
- Nighttime vision problems or sensitivity to light.
- Balance and dizziness.

Diagnosis

Nystagmus can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam. Testing for nystagmus,with special emphasis on how the eyes move, may include:
- Patient history to determine any symptoms the patient is experiencing and the presence of any general health problems, medications taken, or environmental factors that may be contributing to the symptoms.
- Visual acuity measurements to assess the extent to which vision may be affected.
- A refraction to determine the appropriate lens power needed to compensate for any refractive error ( nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism).
- Testing how the eyes focus, move and work together. In order to obtain a clear, single image of what is being viewed, the eyes must effectively change focus, move and work in unison. This testing will look for problems that affect the control of eye movements or make it difficult to use both eyes together.
Further testing may include an ear exam, neurological exam, and/or a brain MRI.

Treatment

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, a doctor of optometry will often work with a primary care physician or other medical specialists to treat that underlying cause.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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