Nystagmus is a repetitive, rhythmical and involuntary movement of the eyes. It generally happens from side to side, but at times it also happens as up and down or in a circular motion. Both of the eyes can move together or independently of each other. A person suffering with nystagmus has no control over this movement of the eyes.
What causes Nystagmus?
Early onset nystagmus will appear in very young babies. It can also be called as congenital nystagmus. Acquired nystagmus is found when the condition is seen later in childhood.
The condition can be caused by a developmental problem of the brain or eye, or the pathway between the two. At times, the condition can be caused by a stroke or head injury.
The majority of children with the condition do not have any other health problems. When the cause of the condition is unknown, it is called idiopathic. Some type of nystagmus can be inherited.
How nystagmus is normally diagnosed?
The condition can be easily diagnosed by performing various eye tests. These will consist of a normal sight test and monitoring their eye movements.
Nystagmus is defined according to the direction of movement of the eyes, how far they move and how often. Both eyes can move together or independently of each other.
Signs & Symptoms of Nystagmus
The most common indication that a child has nystagmus is their eye or eyes will be moving randomly. The child may not be aware of this.
Children suffering with nystagmus mostly have poorer vision and face problems with balance. They will also find it more difficult to follow fast movements.
How nystagmus is normally treated?
There is no cure for nystagmus.
Vision problems, like long or short sightedness are common in people with nystagmus. Glasses will not treat the condition, but can help with reduced vision.
Large print books can help and will be especially useful for children learning to read. Extra time in school tests may be needed as reading the questions may take a little longer.
There is often a ‘null point’ where the eye movement is reduced. At time, this can involve by holding the head at an awkward angle, but it will help improve vision. Sometimes the eyes can be operated upon to reduce the awkward head posture (angle).
There are some of the authorities who advise operating on specific types of nystagmus to improve the quality of vision. Specific strict criteria can be met by an eye movement recording before such procedures can be undertaken.