Nystagmus is an involuntary shaking or “back and forth” movement of the eye. There are two types of nystagmus – congenital and acquired.
Congenital nystagmus typically presents itself in children between 6 weeks and 3 months of age. There is no known cause.
Acquired nystagmus occurs later in a child’s life and can be associated with myriad medical conditions, including cataracts, strabismus and amblyopia.
The vision of children with nystagmus is variable. Some have a mild reduction in visual acuity (20/50 or better); some have more severe vision loss (20/200 or worse). Children with congenital nystagmus tend to have blurry vision, while those with acquired nystagmus are more likely to have “shaking” vision, meaning that items in their visual field look like they are moving back and forth. This is caused by the oscillating of the eye caused by the condition, and can make children tilt or turn their heads to correct the effect.
Eye muscle surgery such as the one performed to correct strabismus can help some children with nystagmus, but it will not fully eliminate the condition. Glasses and contact lenses are also used for treatment. Medications have been used, but side effects have curtailed their consideration as a primary method of treatment.
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