Nystagmus is an eye movement disorder, occurring in both children and adults, that causes involuntary repetitive movement of the eyes. Uncontrollable eye movements can lead to other vision issues, causing problems with perception, balance, and coordination.
There are two types of basic nystagmus: jerk nystagmus and pendular nystagmus.
Jerk nystagmus causes the eyes to make quick movements in one direction while making slower movements in the other direction.
Pendular nystagmus causes the eyes to move equally fast or slow in each direction—like a pendulum.
If you have one of these forms of nystagmus, it will be difficult to keep your eyes fixed on any given object. Learning more about the disorder and treatment options can drastically improve your visual health and well-being.
Forms of Nystagmus
People with nystagmus develop symptoms at a very early age—one child out of every several thousand will have the eye disorder. Unlike some forms of nystagmus, acquired nystagmus develops later in life, often caused by diseases, accidents, or neurological problems. Different forms of nystagmus are classified below:
- Congenital Nystagmus: Present at birth, causing the eyes to move back and forth at a regular speed. If the eyes don’t move together at all times, the eye disorder may be classified as a form of strabismus.
- Manifest Nystagmus: Present at all times.
- Latent Nystagmus: Only occurs when one eye is covered.
- Manifest-Latent Nystagmus: Always present, worsening when one eye is covered.
- Acquired Nystagmus: Develops later in life, often caused by a disease, an accident, or a neurological problem. In rare cases, hyperventilation, flashing lights, nicotine, and vibrations have cause acquired nystagmus.
How Does Acquired Nystagmus Differ from Nystagmus?
Acquired nystagmus differs from the other forms of nystagmus in that it isn’t present at birth, developing later in life. Acquired nystagmus causes in adults and children include albinism, congenital cataracts, inner ear inflammation, anti-epilepsy medications, and central nervous system diseases have been known to cause acquired nystagmus in adults. Central nervous system issues, drug toxicity, alcohol, or metabolic disorders can also cause acquired nystagmus.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Acquired Nystagmus?
If you suspect you’ve acquired this visual disorder, visit an optometrist or vision therapist to determine the possible causes and receive a treatment plan that addresses your unique needs.
Qualified developmental optometrists will perform a comprehensive eye exam to test your vision and rule out any other eye problems related to nystagmus, such as strabismus, cataracts, or issues with your retinas and optic nerves. It’s common to undergo an ear exam, neurological exam, brain MRI, and brain CT scan. A developmental optometrist will also carefully record your eye movement.
How Is Acquired Nystagmus Treated?
There are several acquired nystagmus treatments you can use to reduce vision problems associated with the disorder. With the right plan, you can reteach your eyes to focus on fixed objects around you to see more clearly and confidently.
In order to help you regain your visual health, a developmental optometrist may recommend vision therapy rehabilitation, contacts or glasses, prism glasses, eye muscle surgery, or medications (gabapentin, Botox, or baclofen).
Contact OCVT Today
Certified vision therapists can reduce the symptoms associated with acquired nystagmus with treatment plans tailored to the individual. If you think you or a loved one has acquired this visual disorder, get in touch with OCVT for a complimentary consultation to get started on the path toward improved visual health.
The content of this blog has been reviewed for accuracy by
Briana Larson, OD, FCOVD, FAAO, FNORA-Executive Director