What is nystagmus?

Nystagmus or nystagmus is a condition that causes rapid involuntary movements of one or both eyes.

The eye may move involuntarily from side to side, up and down, or make rotational movements. Nystagmus is often accompanied by visual problems such as blurred vision for example.

This condition is also known as:

  • Dancing eyes;
  • Involuntary eye movements;
  • Uncontrolled eye movements;
  • Rapid eye movements – side to side.

What are the causes of nystagmus?

Nystagmus is caused by abnormal functioning of a part of the brain or inner ear that controls eye movements and body coordination. The condition can be congenital or acquired.

Congenital nystagmus can be an inherited genetic disorder. It appears during the first 6 weeks to 3 months of the child’s life. This type of nystagmus is usually mild and not caused by another disease or condition.

Most people with congenital nystagmus do not need treatment and have no complications in their lifetime.

Sometimes even those affected do not notice their usual eye movements. However, vision problems accompany this condition.

Vision problems vary and can be mild or more severe and most of those affected need corrective lenses or may prefer surgery to correct their vision.

Acquired nystagmus can occur at any age. It is often the result of trauma or illness.

Acquired nystagmus is usually caused by trauma or conditions that affect the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear.

It regulates the movements of the eyes and helps with the spatial orientation of the body, in short thanks to it we can keep ourselves in an upright position.

Acquired nystagmus can be caused by:

  • Stroke
  • Some medications such as anti-epileptic drugs such as phenytoin
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Head or ear injury.
  • Eye diseases
  • Diseases of the inner ear.
  • Vitamin deficiency or in particular Vitamin B12 or thiamine.
  • Diseases of brain such as multiple sclerosis or tumors.
  • Diseases of the central nervous system.

When to seek treatment for nystagmus?

If you notice symptoms of nystagmus, contact your GP. Acquired nystagmus is the result of another health disease or condition.

Your doctor should determine the cause of the nystagmus and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

If you have congenital nystagmus, you should see a doctor if your condition worsens or you have vision problems.

Treatment of nystagmus

Treatment of nystagmus depends on whether it is congenital or acquired. In the case of congenital nystagmus, which usually appears in early childhood, treatment can be aimed at improving the individual’s quality of life and vision.

Corrective lenses and optical aids are often used, which can help flatten the visual field and reduce nystagmus symptoms.

In some cases, a surgical approach, such as eye surgery, may be considered to correct the positions of the muscles and improve the control of visual movements.

In acquired nystagmus, which can be caused by a variety of medical conditions or trauma, treatment should focus on the underlying cause. In this case, acupuncture can be considered as an additional therapy.

Although official medicine may not be entirely convinced of its effectiveness, cases have been noted where stimulation of acupuncture points on the neck, specifically points on the sternocleidomastoid muscle, has resulted in a reduction in the frequency and speed of eye movements .

A surgery known as a tenotomy may be considered as an option to improve the symptoms of nystagmus.

This procedure aims to reduce eye flicker, achieving an improvement in visual acuity.

Tenotomy is performed by relieving certain muscles around the eyes, which can improve coordination of visual movements and contribute to more stable vision.

However, before choosing a specific treatment, it is essential that the individual be evaluated by an experienced professional.

Nystagmus is a medical condition that requires an individual approach, and this approach should be based on a detailed assessment of the factors that influence it.

How to protect yourself?

Prevention of nystagmus, which is a condition of involuntary rhythmic eye movements, can be achieved through several approaches and healthy habits.

  1. Maintain general health: A healthy lifestyle is key to maintaining good vision and preventing various eye problems, including nystagmus. Regular exercise, eating nutrient-dense foods, and maintaining an appropriate weight are important for eye protection.
  2. Avoid sources of stress: Stress can have a negative effect on visual functions. Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can help manage stress and reduce the risk of nystagmus.
  3. Avoid heavy alcohol and drugs: Alcohol and drug consumption can affect eye coordination and increase the risk of nystagmus.

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