Congenital Nystagmus

Nystagmus is an involuntary movement of the eyes which often seriously reduces vision. The movements may be in any direction. This means that the eyes will look like they are moving from side to side or up and down or even in circles. The degree and direction of eye movement, amount of visual loss and resulting impairment varies greatly from person to person. You can be born with the condition ‘congenital nystagmus’ or alternatively acquire it in later life. Often children born with the congenital nystagmus are visually impaired.

Nystagmus is a sign of a problem with the visual system or the pathways that connect the eyes to the parts of the brain that analyse vision. These parts of the brain deal with eye movement. It is not really a condition in its own right but is a symptom to other eye conditions. Nystagmus is not painful and does not lead to progressive loss of vision. Problems resulting from congenital or early onset nystagmus tend to improve until vision stabilizes around the age of five or six. Giving children plenty of stimulation in the early years does seem to help them make best use of the vision they have.

What are the symptoms of congenital Nystagmus?

  • The main symptom of nystagmus in the roving movement of the eyes, this may be a little movements or could be considerably noticeable.
  • Because nystagmus is a sign of so many different underlying causes, the way that vision is affected is varied.
  • If you have congenital nystagmus, how much your vision is affected depends on the underlying condition.
  • Some people will be able to read most sizes of print without help, while others may have vision that makes them eligible to be registered as severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted).

  • What are the causes of Congenital Nystagmus?

  • Nystagmus can occur if there is a problem with the eye itself or the visual pathway
  • Nystagmus can also be caused by some inherited neurological conditions, such as Downs Syndrome.
  • If a child is born with a sight condition such as Glaucoma or Cataracts, Nystagmus can occur as a result of these underlining condition.
  • However, many children with nystagmus do not have any obvious eye, brain or other health problems even though they appear to have nystagmus. This type of nystagmus is called “congenital idiopathic nystagmus” or “idiopathic nystagmus”, meaning that the condition starts very early on in life and the cause is unknown. In idiopathic nystagmus the vision is also reduced.
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