What is nystagmus?

Do you know this neurological eye disorder? Nystagmus is characterized by involuntary and rhythmic horizontal, vertical or rotary movements of the eyes. 

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Nystagmus: explanations

Nystagmus is an eye disorder characterized by involuntary and repetitive eye movements.


These movements can be fast and jerky, or slow and oscillating, and can occur horizontally, vertically, or rotating. 


This condition can affect vision and visual perception, often making it difficult to maintain gaze on an object.


In addition, it can be caused by problems in the nervous, neurological, vestibular, cerebral, or auditory systems, accompanied by headaches and loss of balance.


If you observe any symptoms in your child, do not hesitate to take them for a clinical examination with our pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Stéphanie Zwillinger.

What are the two main types of nystagmus?

There are two main types of nystagmus. central nystagmus, which is caused by damage to the cerebellum, brainstem or cortex, and peripheral nystagmus, which is caused by problems in the inner ear (vestibular nerve), such as Ménière’s disease, labyrinthitis , or vestibular neuritis.

What are the symptoms of nystagmus?

Nystagmus can be paroxysmal, occur intermittently, or be permanent

Symptoms vary depending on its underlying cause and severity

Common signs include:

  • involuntary eye movements;

  • photophobia;

  • blurred or reduced vision;

  • feeling dizzy or unbalanced;

  • difficulty maintaining fixed gaze;

  • visual fatigue.

It may be accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness or nausea and vomiting.


What are the tests for nystagmus?

Nystagmus is diagnosed through clinical examinations by your ophthalmologist. He can then prescribe brainstem MRIs to determine the cause.

What is the origin of nystagmus?

Nystagmus can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired (developing later in life). 


Potential causes include:


  • eye development problems during pregnancy;

  • brain or central nervous system damage;

  • uncorrected strabismus;

  • albinism;

  • neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis;

  • eye trauma;

  • side effects of certain medications;

  • excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs

ocular albinism

What is the treatment for nystagmus?

Diagnosing nystagmus often involves a complete eye examination, including vision tests and neurological studies


Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. 


Treatment options may include:


  • vision correction with glasses or contact lenses;

  • vision therapy with orthoptic rehabilitation to strengthen the eye muscles;

  • medicines to reduce eye movements;

  • surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities.

How to do nystagmus rehabilitation?

Although nystagmus can be a challenge to live with, there are treatment options to improve vision and reduce symptoms.


It is important to consult a healthcare professional as soon as symptoms appear to obtain an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.


Vestibular rehabilitation is often recommended to treat nystagmus and the balance disorders that can accompany it. This rehabilitation aims to stimulate the vestibular system and help the patient compensate for their instability and feelings of dizziness. 

Our team of COP9 orthoptists is here to support you in the treatment, don’t hesitate to meet them!

In conclusion

Nystagmus is an eye disorder caused by dysfunctions of the nervous, vestibular, or auditory systems, and which manifests itself as involuntary eye movements. It may be associated with dizziness, nausea, and balance problems.


The treatment of nystagmus often uses vestibular rehabilitation to help the patient regain their balance and improve their quality of life.


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