Nystagmus Awareness Day: Does Nystagmus Impair Vision?

Nystagmus Awareness Day: Does Nystagmus Impair Vision?

Yes, nystagmus can impair vision. Nystagmus is when the eyes move in a rapid repeated motion, often in the pattern of up and down, side to side, or in a circular motion. Because the eyes are always moving, it can be difficult to focus and vision can become blurred. It is very common for people with nystagmus to have difficulty seeing far away objects and it may also cause jumping vision and oscillopsia, the sensation that the stationary visual world is moving. Because of the sensation of movement, nystagmus can also cause dizziness, loss of balance, and reduced depth perception.

What To Know About Nystagmus

Causes Of Nystagmus
When this eye condition develops at or soon after birth, it is called infantile nystagmus. If it develops later in life, often due to another triggering incident, it is called acquired nystagmus.

Infantile nystagmus can develop due to:

  • Genetic factors
  • Improper brain development
  • Improper eye development
  • Albinism
  • Strabismus (crossed eyes)
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Refractive errors
  • Reaction to medication
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Retina coloboma
  • Optic nerve hypoplasia

Acquired nystagmus  can develop due to:

  • Stroke
  • Brain injury/head injury
  • Brain tumour
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Drug use
  • Excessive alcohol use

While there is no cure for nystagmus, there are some options that address the symptoms of this condition. If you develop acquired nystagmus, some treatment options available are:

  • Eye muscles surgery. There are surgical options to stop rapid eye movement. Some people with nystagmus will acquire a head turn or tilt if the nystagmus slows down when their gaze is at a certain angle. This spot is called a null point and many people with nystagmus who have a null point will naturally tilt their head to see in this area. If the head tilt required to see out of this null point is severe, it can cause neck, back, and shoulder pain and surgery is recommended to address the eye muscles and slow rapid eye movement so the null point use is not as necessary.
  • Medication. Some anti-seizure medications and muscle relaxants have been shown to reduce nystagmus symptoms.
  • BOTOX®. This mild and safe neurotoxin works by paralyzing the muscles. While many people think of this product for reducing wrinkles, the paralyzing effects can help slow down the muscles that are causing rapid eye movements.
  • Addressing Other Causes. Since acquired nystagmus often develops due to other underlying causes, doctors and optometrists may be able to resolve nystagmus symptoms by addressing the underlying issue. Some of the underlying causes can be resolved as a person heals from previous injury or addiction.

There are far fewer treatment options available for children with infantile nystagmus. While there are no treatments available to cure nystagmus, there are options to reduce vision impairment and make vision easier:

  • Glasses or contacts
  • Large print books
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Good lighting 
  • Visual stimulation in early childhood
  • Surgery is sometimes an option when the child is older

Diagnosing Nystagmus
Children are recommended to have their first eye exam at 6 months old to screen for common infantile eye conditions such as nystagmus. At an eye exam for children that young, the optometrist will conduct a visual examination where they look at the eye, and they will ask the parents any questions about family history. If you are experiencing symptoms of acquired nystagmus, visit your optometrist for an adult eye exam. At an eye exam, your optometrist will perform a visual eye exam and discuss any medications use, health complications, or any family health issues. You may also be given some vision tests and eye movement tests. If you have or are suspected of having nystagmus, you may be required to visit your doctor and have either a CAT scan or an MRI. Because nystagmus can be related to brain injury or tumour growth, this is an important precaution.

Screen For Nystagmus With A Comprehensive Eye Exam

If you or your child experience vibrating eyes, dizziness, the inability to see faraway objects, lack of depth perception, or a constantly tilted head, visit a Calgary optometrist to screen for nystagmus. This eye condition can be easily diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam from one of the knowledgeable Calgary eye doctors at Blink Eyewear. Once a diagnosis is made, your optometrist will discuss any available treatment options and will help you learn how to support a child with nystagmus or how to minimize symptoms going forward. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam at Blink Eyewear to take control of the eye health of you and your family.

With three convenient locations in Crowfoot in NW Calgary, West Springs in SW Calgary, and Creekside in NW Calgary, Blink Eyewear can offer you great optometry services throughout the city. To book an appointment with Blink Eyewear, call 1-403-516-2292 or fill out the online contact form.


No, although it may be dizzying and impair vision, which can lead to accidents related to tripping and falling.

It is estimated that around 1 in every 1000 people are affected by nystagmus.

Eye exams are recommended to start at 6 months old, followed by another exam at 3 years old and at 5 years old. After that, comprehensive eye exams should be annual for anyone between 5 and 18 and anyone over 60. People ages 19 to 59 are recommended to have eye exams every 2 years minimum.

Outstanding vision care across Calgary

Outstanding vision care across Calgary

Blink Eyewear is the largest provider of vision services and care in Calgary, operating no fewer than 3 accessible locations across the region. All of our stores are inventoried with the most sought-after designer and commercial frames and eyewear for all occasions and purposes. 

Home to experienced optometrists and opticians, our stores also offer comprehensive eye exams to individuals of all ages, emergency eye care, and the treatment and management of eye conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

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Blink Eyewear boasts the largest collection of eyewear in Calgary, but our 3 locations are also home to the region’s finest optometrists. Just as you will not find a better store to shop for your eyewear, you will not find a better vision clinic to do your eye exam or treat your eye condition. 

Go ahead and Blink; what you see is really what you get. Call one of our store numbers or fill out the form below to book an appointment.

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