Laurie B. Rosenblum, MPH
Nystagmus is a type of involuntary movement of the eyes. The movement usually alternates between slow and fast and involves both eyes.
Different types of nystagmus are:
The direct cause of nystagmus is instability in the motor system that controls the eyes. Sometimes it can be the result of poor vision and is called sensory nystagmus. In some cases, the cause of nystagmus is unknown.
Factors that may increase your chance of nystagmus include:
Nystagmus may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If nystagmus seems to be present, you may need:
Tests may include the following:
Imaging tests may include:
The ophthalmologist will also look for other eye problems that may be related to the nystagmus, such as strabismus,
cataracts, or abnormality of the optic nerves or retina.
The ear specialist will look for signs of ear infection, and for worsening of the nystagmus with head positions.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Removal of the cause of nystagmus can sometimes eliminate the problem, such as discontinuing a medication or stopping alcohol or drug use. However, nystagmus often is a permanent condition that can only be reduced and not eliminated. Treatment options to reduce nystagmus and improve vision include the following:
Low-vision aids can often help improve vision. They may include large print or high contrast materials, good lighting, and magnifying devices.
There are no current guidelines to prevent nystagmus.
American Optometric Association
Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Eye facts about nystagmus. American Nystagmus Network website. Available at:
http://www.nystagmus.org/aao.html. Accessed November 5, 2015.
General information about nystagmus. American Nystagmus Network website. Available at:
http://www.nystagmus.org/aboutn.html. Accessed November 5, 2015.
Hertle RW. Understanding and treatment of infantile nystagmus syndrome. Presentation at the 4th Biennial Conference of the American Nystagmus Network, Los Angeles, CA. July 8-10, 2005. American Nystagmus Network website. Available at:
http://www.nystagmus.org/doc/conf2005/hertle_ANN.pdf. Accessed November 5, 2015.
Nystagmus. American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at:
http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/nystagmus.cfm. Accessed November 5, 2015.
Maybodi M. Understanding nystagmus: diagnosis, related disorders, treatment, and research. Presentation at the 3rd Biennial Conference of the American Nystagmus Network, Baltimore, MD. July 11-13, 2003. Available at:
http://www.nystagmus.org/doc/conf2003/KEYNOTE.pdf. Accessed November 5, 2015.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
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