Focus on Nystagmus


Please note that this page is for information only, it is not a replacement for medical advice.
If you have any questions regarding Nystagmus or any other eye condition,
please consult a medical professional. 

What is Nystagmus?

Nystagmus is a medical condition characterized by involuntary, repetitive, and rhythmic movements of the eyes. This is usually a side-to-side movement, but it may be up and down or a circular movement. Both eyes may move together, or they may move independently of each other. A person with nystagmus has no control over this eye movement. 

There are two types of nystagmus:

Jerk Nystagmus

This type of nystagmus is characterized by a quick, jerky movement of the eyes in one direction, followed by a slow movement back to the original position.

Pendular Nystagmus

This type of nystagmus is characterized by a back-and-forth movement of the eyes that is equal in speed in both directions.

Nystagmus can appear in very young babies - this is known as early onset nystagmus, or congenital nystagmus. It can also appear later in childhood, which is known as acquired nystagmus. The majority of children with nystagmus don't have any other health issues. 

Nystagmus can cause a range of symptoms, including blurred vision, dizziness, and difficulty seeing in dim light. It can also affect a person's balance and coordination, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks. Treatment options depend on the underlying cause of the nystagmus and may include medications, surgery, or other forms of therapy.


"Nystagmus has an incidence rate of at least 1 in 1000 people in the general population."

Nystagmus Network



Symptoms of Nystagmus

Nystagmus is a condition where the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements. The symptoms of nystagmus can include:

Involuntary eye movements

Nystagmus causes the eyes to move back and forth, up and down, or in a circular motion.

Reduced visual acuity

Nystagmus can cause blurry or distorted vision, which may make it difficult to read, recognize faces, or see fine details.

Sensitivity to light

People with nystagmus may be more sensitive to bright light or changes in lighting.


This is a sensation of objects appearing to move when they are actually stationary. Oscillopsia is more common in people with acquired nystagmus, as opposed to congenital nystagmus.

Head tilting or turning

Some people with nystagmus may tilt or turn their head to try to reduce the severity of their eye movements.

Dizziness or vertigo

In some cases, nystagmus can cause feelings of dizziness or vertigo.

Nystagmus can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired (developed later in life). The symptoms and severity of nystagmus can vary depending on the underlying cause and individual case.

"If you have nystagmus, your eyes are always moving, although it may not always be obvious to you or others."

Cause of Nystagmus 

Nystagmus is caused by a problem with the way the eye and the brain work together to communicate messages. 

Nystagmus is most commonly caused by a neurological problem which is either present from birth or develops before the age of eight. This is known as congenital nystagmus.

Acquired nystagmus, which happens in later life, may also be the symptom of another condition. These may include:

  • albinism
  • trauma
  • stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Severe refractive errors such as myopia or astigmatism
  • Congenital cataracts
  • Inner-ear inflammation 
  • Side effects from certain medications

How someone with Nystagmus might view the world  

child playing a game on a computer tablet. The image appears as if there is an overlay of the same image, slightly offset, so there are two of everything. This represents how a person with nystagmus might view the same scene.      

Please note this is a simulation of Nystagmus, based on the anecdotal experiences of people who have the condition. This image is not the experience of everyone with Nystagmus and is for illustration purposes only.


Diagnosis of Nystagmus

Nystagmus can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. During the exam, they will check for involuntary eye movements and assess the degree and direction of the eye movement.

To help diagnose the cause of nystagmus, your doctors may also perform additional tests, such as:

Neurological exam

This exam evaluates the function of the brain and nervous system, and can help determine if nystagmus is caused by an underlying neurological condition.

Electrooculography (EOG)

EOG measures the electrical activity of the muscles that control eye movement, and can help identify abnormalities in eye movement.

Videonystagmography (VNG)

VNG is a type of test that uses cameras to record eye movements, and can help identify the specific type of nystagmus and its underlying cause.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan

These imaging tests may be ordered to help evaluate the brain and detect any underlying structural or neurological abnormalities that may be causing nystagmus.

It's important to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for nystagmus, as it can be a symptom of a serious underlying condition that requires medical attention.

"Nystagmus is the most common form of visual impairment among school aged children"

Nystagmus Network

Treatment of Nystagmus

There is no cure for nystagmus, but there are treatments to help with reduced vision and other common sight problems such as short-sightedness (nearsightedness) or long-sightedness (farsightedness) that might also be present. 

The treatment of nystagmus depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. In some cases, treatment may not be necessary if the nystagmus does not significantly affect vision or quality of life. However, if treatment is necessary, options may include:

Treating any underlying medical conditions

If nystagmus is caused by an underlying condition, such as a neurological disorder or a medication side effect, treating the underlying condition may improve or resolve the nystagmus.

Corrective lenses

Glasses or contact lenses may be prescribed to improve vision and reduce eye strain, which can sometimes help improve nystagmus.

Vision therapy

This type of therapy involves eye exercises and other techniques designed to improve eye muscle control and reduce the severity of nystagmus.


In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help control the involuntary eye movements associated with nystagmus.


Surgery may be considered in cases of nystagmus that are severe and significantly impact vision, or in cases where the nystagmus is caused by a structural abnormality that can be corrected surgically.

It's important to note that nystagmus is a complex condition, and treatment options may vary depending on individual factors such as the type and severity of nystagmus, age, overall health, and other underlying conditions.

An optometrist or ophthalmologist can help determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on an individual's specific needs.

"The way that nystagmus affects vision varies from person to person but it doesn’t lead to total loss of sight."

Living with Nystagmus

Living with nystagmus can be challenging, but there are steps that can be taken to help manage the condition and improve quality of life. Here are some tips for living with nystagmus:

Get regular eye exams

Regular eye exams can help detect changes in vision and eye health and can help ensure that corrective lenses or other treatments are providing adequate support.

Practice good eye care

Maintaining good eye hygiene, such as keeping eyes clean and avoiding eye strain, can help reduce symptoms of nystagmus and improve overall eye health.

Make adjustments to daily routines

Simple adjustments to daily routines, such as sitting closer to the board in a classroom or avoiding bright lights, can help reduce symptoms of nystagmus and make it easier to perform daily tasks.

Seek support

Joining a support group or connecting with others who have nystagmus can provide emotional support and helpful tips for managing the condition.

Use assistive technology and other aids

Assistive technology, such as speech-to-text software or magnification software, can help make it easier to read and perform other tasks. Additionally, using large-print materials or wearing sunglasses can help reduce eye strain and improve vision.

Assistive technology, including screen magnifiers, screen readers and accessible book readers can help people with nystagmus navigate daily life in comfort. These tools can make it easier to read, write, study and use technology.

Whatever your experience is with computers, Dolphin assistive technology can help.

Take care of overall health

Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress can all help improve overall health and reduce symptoms of nystagmus.

It's important to remember that everyone's experience with nystagmus is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Working with an optometrist or opthalmologist can help identify the best strategies and treatments for managing nystagmus on an individual basis.


Where to find more information about Nystagmus

Nystagmus NEtwork

Nystagmus Network

UK charity providing advice and support for people with nystagmus and their families. The Nystagmus Network also raises awareness and raises funds for research into Nystagmus.

Visit Nystagmus Network >

GOSH logo

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children

To find out more about nystagmus in babies and children and learn about treatment in the UK, visit the Great Ormond Street website. 

Visit GOSH website >

AOA logo

American Optometric Association (AOA)

The leading authority representing more than 48,000 doctors of optometry, optometric professionals and optometry students.

Visit AOA website >

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How Dolphin assistive technology can help you live with Nystagmus

How Dolphin makes a difference

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If you are blind or partially sighted, Dolphin assistive technology helps you maintain your independence. We have developed specialist software, specifically for people experiencing sight loss.

For over 35 years, we have made a difference to the lives of millions of people who are blind or partially sighted. Dolphin software includes screen magnification and screen reading technology, book reading apps and easy to use computer programs. These work to help people with sight loss to work or study, to complete tasks independently at home, to access the internet and read all the information on a computer screen.

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SuperNova is a range of assistive technology for people who are blind or partially sighted. SuperNova provides exceptional magnification, screen reading and braille support and enables you to explore your computer screen. 

Choose the edition that suits your vision:

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  • SuperNova Magnifier & Screen Reader
  • SuperNova Enterprise

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