Nystagmus is a condition of involuntary (or voluntary, in some cases) eye movement. Infants can be born with it but more commonly acquire it in infancy or later in life. In extremely rare cases it may result in reduced or limited vision. Due to the involuntary movement of the eye, it has been called "dancing eyes".
|Other names||Dancing eyes|
|Horizontal optokinetic nystagmus, a normal (physiological) form of nystagmus|
In normal eyesight, while the head rotates about an axis, distant visual images are sustained by rotating eyes in the opposite direction of the respective axis. The semicircular canals in the vestibule of the ear sense angular acceleration, and send signals to the nuclei for eye movement in the brain. From here, a signal is relayed to the extraocular muscles to allow one's gaze to fix on an object as the head moves. Nystagmus occurs when the semicircular canals are stimulated (e.g., by means of the caloric test, or by disease) while the head is stationary. The direction of ocular movement is related to the semicircular canal that is being stimulated.
There are two key forms of nystagmus: pathological and physiological, with variations within each type. Nystagmus may be caused by congenital disorder or sleep deprivation, acquired or central nervous system disorders, toxicity, pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, or rotational movement. Previously considered untreatable, in recent years several drugs have been identified for treatment of nystagmus. Nystagmus is also occasionally associated with vertigo.