Nystagmus Types

Nystagmus can be defined as the rapid and involuntary movement of the eyes in a back-and-forth, up-and-down or rotary motion that often decreases vision. Nystagmus can cause the eyes to jerk involuntarily. It is always cause for consultation with your health care provider. Nystagmus can be infantile–meaning it originated in early life–or it can be acquired later in life by injury, trauma or disease.

Congenital Nystagmus

Congenital nystagmus is sometimes referred to as motor nystagmus. It usually becomes apparent between six weeks and three months after birth. The movement of the eyes is usually horizontal. Individuals with congenital nystagmus may have difficulty seeing far away, but vision up-close is nearly normal. Congenital nystagmus does not cause the individual to see the world swinging, or moving as their eyes indicate. Congenital nystagmus is always found in patients with albinism–a congenital disorder that affects pigmentation and vision–and also occurs in achromatopsia–a vision disorder that affects cone vision.

Acquired Nystagmus

Acquired nystagmus is the rapid, involuntary movement of the eyes that has begun as a result of injury, trauma, disease or condition. Inner ear disorders, drug use (both street and prescription), stroke, multiple sclerosis and traumas such as motor vehicle accidents can cause nystagmus to begin. Acquired nystagmus can also be triggered by inner ear diseases.

Latent Nystagmus

Latent nystagmus is often discovered after the first few months of life. This type of nystagmus is considered congenital and is described by the same roving, jerking movements characteristic of other types of nystagmus, only it is not present when both eyes are viewing. If one eye is covered up, the other will exhibit nystagmus.

About this Author

Lara Alspaugh is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Michigan State University. She is a faculty member at Lansing Community College in the nursing department. Her work can be found on ModernMom.com and SmarterBaby.com as well as many print magazines and newspapers.