Nystagmus is a type of involuntary movement of the eyes. The movement usually alternates between slow and fast and involves both eyes.Different types of nystagmus are:
  • Horizontal—side-to-side
  • Vertical—up and down
  • Rotatory—circular
  • Infantile—tends to develop between 6 weeks and 3 months of age and is the most common type.
  • Acquired—occurs later in life


The direct cause of nystagmus is instability in the motor system that controls the eyes. Sometimes it can be the result of poor vision and is called sensory nystagmus. In some cases, the cause of nystagmus is unknown.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of nystagmus include:
  • Genetic tendency
  • A family member with nystagmus
  • Poor development of eye control that may be caused by an eye disease or visual problem during infancy, such as bilateral optic nerve hypoplasia or congenital cataracts
  • Lack of pigmentation resulting in reduced vision—albinism
  • Eye disorders, such as optic nerve degeneration or severe astigmatism or severe nearsightedness
  • Health conditions, such as Meniere’s disease which involves balance problems, multiple sclerosis, spasmus nutans, or stroke
  • Injury to the head or involving the body’s motor system
  • Use of certain medications, such as lithium or antiseizure medications
  • Alcohol abuse or drug use
  • Inner ear problems, such as infections, irritation, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, some brain tumors
  • Thiamine or vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Health condition that can also affect the brain, such as a tumor

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