Eye Care

Common Causes Of Nystagmus


The movement of your eyes is controlled by your brain. Your eyes move reflexively to adjust for slight movement of your head. Nystagmus, or the dancing eyes is a kind of disease in which a person’s eyeballs move involuntarily and he/she loses control over that. The movement can be of any kind- side to side, up and down or even rotary.Also, the nystagmus can occur either in one eye or in both the eyes. Generally, it occurs in infants, but there is no such compulsion. Grown-ups can also acquire this disease somehow. There are various kinds of nystagmus. Depending on the type of nystagmus, its causes might differ.

Symptoms of nystagmus

The symptoms include fast, uncontrollable eye movements. The direction of movement determines the type of nystagmus:

  • Horizontal nystagmus involves side-to-side eye movements.
  • Vertical nystagmus involves up-and-down eye movements.
  • Rotary, or torsional, nystagmus involves circular movements.

Causes Of Nystagmus

Inner Ear Problems

It is true that nystagmus would not cause any other disorder in the human body. But, the vice versa is not at all true. If a person has some problem in his inner ear, then, at some point in his life, he is likely to acquire this disease. In such cases, the nystagmus is known as the jerk nystagmus. Eyes would drift in one side very slowly, and as soon as it reaches the end, it would jerk in the other side suddenly, that is why this is known as jerk nystagmus.


Some of the medicines can also result in nystagmus at some later stage in life. For example- if you are affected with epilepsy, you would tend to take up anticonvulsant medications, in the form of gabapentin or divalproex. This would provide a relief from the seizures of epilepsy for some time but in the long run, these medicines would have a long lasting side effect on you. One of the common side effects among these includes nystagmus.

Myopia Or Astigmatism

According to the American Optometric Association States, if a person is suffering from the common eye problems such as myopia or astigmatism, it might cause nystagmus in those people if these problems reach a critical state.

Present At Birth Or Genetics

As mentioned earlier, nystagmus might occur in infants. This means, at the birth itself, some people have this disease present in them. If nystagmus is present at birth, this kind of eye problem is known as infantile nystagmus syndrome. This is not severe and does not cause any other disorder in the body. Surgery could be done in this case and the person himself does not feel any change in his eyes. Generally, genetics are the major factor behind infantile nystagmus syndrome. It means, if someone in your family is affected from this disorder, you are likely to have it at birth.

Head Injury

Road accidents are very common these days. One effect of these road accidents can be nystagmus. Whenever one falls on the road due to the accident or hits his head with some object, this might affect the structure of the eye, and in rare cases, nystagmus might occur to the person. Areas that are responsible for controlling the movements of the eye may get damaged during the accident and this causes nystagmus.

To Top