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Nystagmus is a type of involuntary movement of the eyes. The movement usually alternates between slow and fast and involves both eyes. The direction of movement may be:
Different types of nystagmus are:
Infantile or motor nystagmus is usually due to instability in the motor system that controls the eyes.
Acquired or sensory nystagmus is usually due to poor vision or neurologic problems.
In some cases, the cause of nystagmus is unknown.
Factors that may increase your chance of nystagmus include:
Nystagmus may cause:
You will be asked 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:
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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. Updated July 3, 1999. Accessed December 15, 2017.
General information about nystagmus. American Nystagmus Network website. Available at: http://www.nystagmus.org/aboutn.html. Updated February 21, 2002. Accessed December 15, 2017.
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 December 15, 2017.
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.
Nystagmus. Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/nystagmus.cfm. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 12/20/2014