Facts about Eye Shaking


Whether the condition is called dancing eyes, jerking eyes or by its scientific name nystagmus, it can be disconcerting to both the individual and the person to whom they are looking when eye shaking occurs.  This ocular condition, which is extremely complex, can be either present at birth or acquired later in life.


The exact nature of this disorder is largely a mystery.  Nystagmus is the uncontrollable movement of one or both eyes.  Involuntary and usually quite rapid, the movement may be from side to side, up and down or rotating.  The effects of the condition can vary from person to person, as there are approximately 45 different variations of this disorder.  There are two general groups within which these variations are classified; sensory nystagmus or motor nystagmus.  To fit within the classification of sensory nystagmus, the condition is generally related to some type of vision loss while the level of control of muscle function attributes to motor nystagmus.

 


Nystagmus early in life.  It is estimated that approximately one in every 1,000 children has some type of nystagmus.  In many infants, the development of this condition is the often the first sign that the child has suffered loss of vision.  The cause for the vision loss can vary; some common eye diseases occurring in about 85% of cases that result in vision loss are optic nerve hypoplasia, achromatopsia congenital cataracts, albinism, retinopathy of prematurity or aniridia.  The condition is not generally discovered and diagnosed until the infant is between six to eight weeks of age.  Occasionally, slight vision loss that occurs without the presence of an ocular disease may develop the eye shaking symptom.  Almost all cases of early onset nystagmus can be attributed to heredity.


The type of eye movement that is most frequently seen in infants is that of back and forth rotation.  Because of its similarity to the movement of a pendulum on a clock, this is called pendular nystagmus.  The movement is typically even and consistent.  Fortunately, infants that acquire nystagmus have a happier diagnosis for adulthood.  While the condition rarely disappears completely, it has been noted to slightly improve as the child ages.  It can be improved through special care and eye wear.


Nystagmus that develops later in life.   An odd deviance of this condition is that, while vision loss in infants results in dancing eyes, vision loss later in life does not.  Rather, nystagmus can be a resulting symptom from a head injury, brain tumors or from multiple sclerosis. Younger generations most often develop the condition from a traumatic event such as a car accident, while older individuals more commonly develop nystagmus after suffering from a stroke.  Because of the pre-existing condition, often the development of the eye shaking is noted by the individual as it occurs.  Feeling disoriented or dizzy is common with the sudden, involuntary movements of the eyes, which tends to be more directional.  When looking in different directions, the eyes may slowly move in one direction, and then quickly dart back. 


Individuals who have suffered no head trauma at all yet take the medications Phenobarbital or Dilantin may also experience the consequence of nystagmus.  They, too, will have side effects from the condition such as vertigo.


Congenital nystagmus, once diagnosed, offers no treatment in the majority of cases.  For conditions that were acquired later in life, there may be therapies available but it depends upon the reason for the eye shaking.  Some people who developed nystagmus due to medications or infections will have a full cessation of the movement once the cause is addressed.  In other cases, the effects will remain for life.


Nystagmus is a complex condition that can affect anyone of any age.  It could cause social issues as well, and requires understanding from others who come in contact with those afflicted with this condition.


 

 


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