Spotlight on eye health: What is nystagmus?

According to the American Optometric Association, nystagmus is “a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements, often resulting in reduced vision.” Although many people inherit the condition and show signs within the first two or three months of life, other people acquire it later in childhood or adulthood after experiencing an accident. Nystagmus is characterized by involuntary eye movements, for instance glancing up and down or from side to side. People with nystagmus may attempt to see more clearly by nodding their head or holding their head in abnormal positions. Other effects of this condition include trouble with depth perception, which may lead to feeling unbalanced or uncoordinated. The American Optometric Association suggests that when acquired later in life, nystagmus may be a symptom of a larger condition, such as a stroke or multiple sclerosis.

Nystagmus is also associated with albinism, central nervous system diseases, and inflammation of the inner ear. If you suspect you may suffer from this condition, it is very important to see an optometrist on your vision plan for a comprehensive eye exam. The optometrist will test your visual acuity and look at the way your eyes move and focus. He or she may also refer you to another medical specialist if it appears the nystagmus is a symptom of another underlying condition. In some cases, people with nystagmus can improve their vision with the help of prisms and special glasses, but there is no known cure for the condition. Fortunately, an optometrist can help you identify related conditions and work with you to make your vision as healthy as possible. Take the first step toward that goal today.

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