Encyclopedia / N / Nystagmus



Nystagmus is an unintentional jittery movement of the eyes. Nystagmus usually involves both eyes and is often exaggerated by looking in a particular direction.


Minor degrees of nystagmus at the extremes of gaze are normal. Many conditions are associated with nystagmus. Sometimes, the brain's control of eye movements is poor, resulting in an inability to look steadily at an object.

Some forms of nystagmus are associated with reduced vision, such as occurs in extreme near or farsighted people or in those with scars in the retina or optic nerve. Rarely, nystagmus can occur as a result of brain tumors or in serious neurologic disorders.

Nystagmus can be found in some families as an isolated problem, not associated with other conditions.


Medications and drugs can cause nystagmus. Causes include excessive drinking of alcohol or use of medications such as those given for seizure control. Often the nystagmus will improve if the medication is stopped, but discuss this with your physician.

Voluntary nystagmus can be created by some people, much in the same way as ear wiggling. Fine, rapid, horizontal movements can be produced and sustained for short periods of time. Disease-induced nystagmus is less common. It is often associated with neurological signs and symptoms.


Diagnosis is made clinically based on the medical history and physical examination.


Sometimes, removal of the cause may cure nystagmus (e.g., medication). Often, however, nystagmus is permanent.

The reduced vision may be improved with glasses and low vision aids. If the eyes are more stable looking in a certain direction, glasses with prisms or eye muscle surgery may improve the head position and allow better vision.


Is the diagnosis nystagmus?

What type is it?

What is the probable cause?

Is it related to any medications that are currently be taken?

Is the nystagmus disease-induced?

What can be done to improve the vision?

Will eye exercises or biofeedback help?