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Nystagmus

What is nystagmus?

Nystagmus is an eye condition where the eyes are unsteady or wobbly. Children do not know that they are doing it. The wobble of the eyes makes the vision blurred like if a camera moves during a photograph. The wobbly eye movements are usually from side to side but they can be in any direction. The movements of the eyes can be large or small and fast or slow.

What is the cause of nystagmus?

There are 3 main causes of nystagmus.

Reduced vision

Children with significantly reduced vision often develop nystagmus. Albinism is an example of this.

Some children are born with nystagmus

Some children are born with nystagmus without any known cause of for this. This is called congenital idiopathic nystagmus.

Part of the brain that controls eye movements is not working

Sometimes the parts of a child’s brain that help the eyes to move smoothly do not work. This is neurological nystagmus.

How is nystagmus diagnosed?

First an orthoptist tests how well children can see and assesses eye movements. Next an eye doctor looks at the eye health and decides if other tests are needed.

How does nystagmus affect the way a child sees?

Children are not aware of the eyes shaking because the brain learns to adapt and ignore this. But the wobble does cause the vision to be blurry.

The amount of wobble can change when looking in different directions. Sometimes children turn their heads to the side to reduce the wobble of the eyes and improve vision. This should not be discouraged.

What can be done to help?

It is important that support is put into place to help children make the most of their vision. Your orthoptist will talk to you about help that can be given by your local vision support service.

Useful contacts

The Orthoptic Department, Sheffield Children’s Hospital

Tel: 0114 271 7468 or 0114 271 7481

Additional information and support is available from:

Nystagmus Network – Supporting people living with nystagmus

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: EYE20

Resource Type: Article

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S10 2TH

United Kingdom

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