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Nystagmus is known as “dancing eyes” is characterized by rapid involuntary movement of the eyes. This condition can happen to people of any groups.

Nystagmus is categorized in the following ways:

  • Infantile nystagmus syndrome (INS) or congenital nystagmus is present at birth. It begins between 3-6 months of age of the infant.
  • Sensory nystagmus develops in early life mostly due to eye problems
  • Acquired nystagmus develops later in life due to injury or underlying diseases

Symptoms of Nystagmus

  • rapid movement of eyes to and fro, up and down or circular movement
  • Blurriness in vision
  • Jerky movement- eyes drift in one direction and then jerk back to the other direction
  • Nausea and vertigo

Causes of Nystagmus

In congenital cases the child is born with a disorder in the visual pathway of the eyes to the brain, as result of which eye movement is uncontrolled.

If it’s acquired then it can be a consequence of the following factors:

  • head injury
  • diseases in the CNS
  • Stroke
  • major eye disorders like astigmatism or myopia
  • diseases of the inner ear -labyrinthitis or Meniere's disease
  • vitamin B12 deficiency
  • brain tumours, multiple sclerosis
  • Congenital cataracts
  • medicines for seizures, epilepsy
  • Albinism
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome

Diagnosis of Nystagmus

Your eye specialist will conduct a comprehensive eye exam to check the condition of the eyes. The test begins with evaluation of the medical history. You need to tell your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing, history of any disease and also about the medicines that you might be taking.

Several eye examinations will be conducted which include visual acuity tests, Electro-oculography (movement of eyes), vestibular testing, and refractive tests.  Detailed analysis of the eyes with respect to movement of the head will be performed by the ophthalmologist.

Apart from eye tests, several neurological tests, CT scan and MRI of head and ear exam are also conducted to diagnose the underlying disorder.

Treatment of Nystagmus

The treatment for nystagmus is completely dependent on the underlying disease.

  • If it’s an acquired case, then probably treating the associated disorder can improve eyesight. Stopping the drug or other addiction is also a treatment option
  • Corrective lenses or refractive glasses are given to improve vision and correct the refractive error
  • Eye muscle surgery, also known as strabismus surgery may be suggested to some individuals with nystagmus. The purpose of the surgery is to reduce abnormal head position which in turn improves the severity of nystagmus
  • Jerky movement of eyes is often treated with injections of botulinum toxin

So cn Nystagmus be completely cured?

Nystagmus is a permanent condition and it cannot be cured. The treatment options are effective in improving the vision and overall condition of the eyes but they do not completely eliminate nystagmus.

It’s indeed upsetting to cope with impaired vision. If your child has nystagmus, make sure you follow the biofeedback therapies suggested by your doctor and help him/her to deal in school and public places. The eyesight will be considerably improved with treatment and of course time; nonetheless you need to be a lot patient.  

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015

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