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Nystagmus Awareness Day

Richard Osman, the television presenter, producer, comedian, director and novelist has nystagmus, which causes his eyes to move or “wobble” constantly. When working on TV he learns his scripts by heart as nystagmus makes it hard for him to read the autocue.

The uncontrolled eye movement caused by nystagmus can be side to side, up and down, in a circular motion, or a combination of these movements.

Nystagmus is caused by a problem with the way the eye sends messages to the brain, or how the parts of the brain responsible for eye movement make sense of the information.

Congenital nystagmus is usually diagnosed in very young children. Although this type of nystagmus can be associated with a problem with the eyes themselves, or the parts of the brain which control eye movements, children sometimes develop nystagmus without any of these problems.

There is a lot of variation in how congenital nystagmus affects sight, however most people with nystagmus have some useful vision, and the condition doesn’t usually worsen with age. Some people find they have poor depth perception which can make judging distances and heights difficult.

Whilst some people can read most sizes of print without help most people with nystagmus have reduced vision.

Holding your head in a particular position may help people with nystagmus to see things more clearly. This is known as the “null zone” and is usually the direction of gaze where eye movements are slowest and most stable. Parents may notice that their child looks at things sideways or tilts their head to one side. Some people with the condition also find that nodding improves their vision.

Nystagmus that develops later in life is caused by damage to the parts of the brain which control eye movements. Acquired nystagmus is usually a sign of another underlying condition such as stroke, brain tumour, multiple sclerosis, head injury or the effects of a drug.

The prognosis for the condition depends on its cause. Some people get better however it can be long term. When nystagmus is new to a person, their brain will not have adapted to the unexpected eye movements. Unfortunately, this means they are likely to perceive the world as constantly moving, which can be very disabling, making things difficult to see and causing dizziness and nausea.

There is currently no cure for nystagmus however things can be done to help people manage the condition.

If you have nystagmus, please contact EYECAN where the Community Team can assess your vision needs and explore adaptations to improve your sight experience.

To learn more about EYECAN support please contact: [email protected] / Tel: 864689.