What are the Symptoms and Causes of Nystagmus?

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Nystagmus is a complex eye condition where the eyes make involuntary movements all the time.

Nystagmus Symptoms

Nystagmus is an involuntary movement of the eyes. If a person has this condition from birth, its called congenital nystagmus (CN).

Usually those with congenital nystagmus are partially sighted. A child’s depth of field vision is not reduced by nystagmus. If your child has a reduced depth of field vision, that’s a different condition (strabismus) caused by the eyes being misaligned.

Causes of Nystagmus?

The actual cause is instability in the motor system in charge of controlling the eyes. It can be inherited; in some cases the cause is unknown.

Nystagmus Treatment

Sometimes corrective surgery is performed to eliminate the need to turn the head.

Glasses or contact lenses do not correct nystagmus, although they may reduce congenital nystagmus; they should be worn to correct other vision problems. Its important to remember that stress, tiredness, nervousness, or unfamiliar surroundings can affect your child’s vision if he or she has CN.

Tips to Help Your Child with CN

The angle of vision is important. Most individuals with CN have a null point (a gaze angle where the congenital nystagmus damps). Let your child find the head position that will help him or her see well.

Usually, its best to sit directly in front of what your child is looking at (for example, a television or blackboard) and move his or her head into the position that lets him or her see best.

Recommendations for Your Child’s Teachers

When your child enters school, any of the following can be suggested to your child’s teacher:

  • My child needs to hold books/objects close to his or her eyes. Allow him or her tilt his or her head or use any other body posture adopted if this enhances vision.
  • My child cannot share books. He or she needs his or her own so he or she can hold it at the proper angle and closeness to his or her eyes.
  • If the students are asked to read posters on the wall, remember my child need to have materials at his or her eye level.
  • Allow my child to pick the seat that allows him or her to see. He or she should not sit to one side, rather he or she should be positioned straight in front of the board.
  • Store visual aids within my child’s reach so he or she can access them easily and can use them when necessary.
  • Allow my child to use prescribed tinted glasses, cap, hat, or eyeshade to reduce the effects of glare.
  • Read aloud when writing on the board; describe diagrams.
  • Allow my child sufficient time to complete tasks and to examine materials/objects.
  • Good (though not necessarily bright) lighting is essential. The light should be behind the student and directed onto the object being viewed. Matte surfaces for walls, boards, and paper prevent light reflection and glare.
  • Use strong color contrast between letters/figures/lines and background. These should be well spaced.
  • To keep track of where the pupil is up to when reading, a piece of dark card may be used or he or she can track with a finger.
  • Exercise books with matte paper, different colors, and line spacing should be made available.