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Nystagmus eye condition: causes, symptoms and treatments

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Nystagmus eye condition: causes, symptoms and treatments
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Nystagmus is a involuntary eye movement that makes them swing from left to right or up and down.  There are two forms of nystagmus.  The condition is either acquired as a result of another illness such as a stroke or is congenital which is when it is developed in very young children.  Read on to find out more about this complex visual impairment. 

Everyone has a micronystagmus, which is not visible to the naked eye. It allows us to look for and find objects as well as look at moving objects like a train that passes in front of us. However the pathological form of nystagmus, whether acquired or congenial, creates this movement without any particular reason.  In Britain about 1 in 1,000 are affected by this eye condition which can affect men, women and children.  Nystagmus UK also notes this condition is more prevalent in the White European population than any other.  In this article we will look at the symptoms and treatment of pathological nystagmus.

 

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Caused of pathological nystagmus

There are multiple causes for nystagmus.  The condition is linked to an imbalance of different structures that manage ocular movements and in particular eye stability. If there is any instability, eye movements become uncontrollable and involuntary.  Different areas can be responsible for this imbalance including:

  • The eye itself 
  • The inner ear which controls among other things our balance 
  • The brain
  • The connections between our eyes and our brain. 

According to the different types of nystagmus the causes can also differ:

  • Congenital (from birth):  This form can be the result of impaired vision and can be hereditary. 
  • Acquired : This is when older children or adults develop this eye condition following neurological impairment or a problem with their inner ear. Examples which could cause nystagmus include a stroke, a tumor, a heart problem or an impact to the head. A neuro-sensory form of the condition can also be acquired by an infection during pregnancy, while giving birth such as a toxoplasmosis, trisomy 21 or due to lack of oxygen while giving birth.

The symptoms of the condition

Without associated illnesses, patients with nystagmus have normal visual clarity, although in general it will be below average. However, if the sufferer has a visual impairment such as myopia or astigmatism and it is not corrected their nystagmus could get worse.
People sufferering from nystagmus will not only suffer from tired eyes,  their eyes will notably make the pendulum movement from side to side which is an obvious visual symptom.

Sometimes this involuntary movement can stop however the eye gets blocked into one position. Some suffers will have several positions while others have none. However, this position may be inconvenient.  For example if the eyes get blocked while looking to the side, the patient may develop musculoskeletal symptoms such as torticollis as they will have to bend their neck to see better.

Apl.de.ap from the Black Eyed Peas has suffered with this eye condition Credit: Wikipedia

How to treat this condition

There isn’t a cure for this condition however there are some options to lessen the symptoms that are available to help sufferers.  Wearing glasses can help to correct vision which will also help to not aggravate the ocular movement.

Treatments for related illness can also help reduce the impact of the eye condition.
Lastly, surgery can be considered on oculomotor muscles which manage the movements of the eye. This surgical procedure can change the locking position of the eye if it is lateral.

Children with nystagmus may come across difficulties with their peers at school. As the condition is visible, a child with the visual impairment could be teased or bullied.  However this condition should not hold them back.  Many celebrities have eye conditions that are not often spoken about including Apl.de.ap fro the Grammy award winning Black Eyed Peas. Don’t let the condition make you think you are different!

Sources : Le Figaro Santé & Mouvement Nystagmus & NystagmusNetwork

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