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  • Nystagmus

    Nystagmus is a rapid, involuntary movement of one or both eyes. The movement is usually side-to-side (horizontal nystagmus), but it can also be up and down (vertical nystagmus), or circular (rotary or torsional nystagmus). Broadly speaking, there are two types of nystagmus:

    • Congenital nystagmus, or infantile nystagmus syndrome, is present at birth and may be inherited.
    • Acquired nystagmus develops later in childhood or adulthood, possibly due to a disease or an injury.
    Additional Information

    How common is nystagmus?

    Congenital nystagmus is estimated to affect one in 5,000 newborns.

    Who gets nystagmus?

    Nystagmus affects people of all ages, but congenital nystagmus most often develops by two to three months of age.

    Causes of nystagmus can include:

    • Stroke
    • Head trauma
    • Central nervous system diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and brain tumors
    • Certain medications, such as anti-epilepsy drugs
    • Various eye disorders, such as cataracts, strabismus, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism
    • Inner ear problems, such as Meniere’s disease
    • Albinism
    • Drug or alcohol use

    How is nystagmus diagnosed?

    The following diagnostic tests may be used to determine whether you have nystagmus:

    • Eye exam
    • Neurological exam
    • Imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI scan
    • Eye-movement recordings
    Symptoms of Nystagmus
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Difficulty seeing in darkness
    • Dizziness
    • Problems with depth perception that can affect balance and coordination
    • Holding your head in a turned or tilted position to improve vision
    • Other vision problems

    If you are having vision problems, contact a medical professional.

    Treatments for Nystagmus

    Nystagmus is often a permanent condition, but certain treatments may be able to reduce the severity:

    • Glasses or contact lenses to improve associated vision problems
    • Surgery on the muscles that move the eyes
    • Taking medications
    • Eliminating certain medications, drugs, or alcohol
    • Treatment for underlying eye or medical problems that may be causing nystagmus
    • Date of last review: January 11, 2017

    About Barrow Neurological Institute

    Since our doors opened as a regional specialty center in 1962, we have grown into one of the premier destinations in the world for neurology and neurosurgery. Our experienced, highly skilled, and comprehensive team of neurological specialists can provide you with a complete spectrum of care–from diagnosis through outpatient neurorehabilitation–under one roof. Barrow Neurological Institute: Discover. Educate. Heal.