Understanding Chronic Nystagmus

The words “chronic nystagmus” may raise eyebrows.  After all, this condition is rare and seldom discussed.

People do not give any thought to a diagnosis of chronic nystagmus, until someone points out that he peers at others in an odd way. Nystagmus may worsen after a traumatic event, such as an operation to remove brain tumors.

Nystagmus, known otherwise as “dancing eyes,’ leaves a person unable to control his eye movements. It comes about when the part of the brain that controls eye and ear movements functions abnormally.

These involuntary eye movements, known as saccadic oscillations, refer to the eyes rotating in the opposite direction from their axis. It leaves patients with a “spaced out” look. Rapid eye movements are a sign of this condition.

This condition is either congenital (hereditary) or acquired. Congenital Nystagmus does not need treatment. Known as Infantile Nystagmus Syndrome (INS), it is mild and is not caused by health problems.

If it is acquired, doctors may treat it by focusing on its underlying cause. These may include:

  • stroke
  • medication
  • excessive alcohol intake
  • head injury or trauma
  • inner ear diseases
  • vitamin deficiency
  • brain diseases
  • and diseases of the  nervous system  

Nystagmus also leaves a person with limited vision. It leaves those whom you are looking at feeling a little awkward.

The condition has two key forms. Either pathological or physiological, it can result from congential disorders or  trauma to the nervous system.

In some cases, inner ear problems or an excessive intake of alcohol can cause this disorder.

Nystagmus did not have earlier forms of treatment. Doctors have since developed a slew of anti-seizure drugs  to suppress excessive movements. Occular surgery helps to correct the problem as well.

Those who notice that their eye movements are faster than usual,  or that they look at themselves oddly in mirrors should see their doctors. 

As with other medical conditions, it is necessary to develop coping strategies.  These are as effective and perhaps more useful than any form of treatment.

Patients with Nystagmus should remind themselves to make eye contact with the person they are speaking to. Doing this focuses their vision and makes the person feel more at ease. They should remember to look up and ahead, but not down.

They can also try a few eye exercises. Moving eyeballs from side to side helps to exercise and relax tense eye muscles.

It helps not to stare at computer or books for too long. This exhausts the eyes and nerves.  Those with Nystagmus should work rest time into their schedules.

Chronic nystagmus is an inconvenient, but tolerable condition. It does not have to limit anyone.  

 


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