Causes Of Nystagmus In Babies: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Nystagmus in babies is also called infantile nystagmus. It is involuntary oscillation of eyes which may be present since birth or may develop within six months after birth. The movement of eye can be from side to side, jerk like or sometimes the motion can be circular. Nystagmus occurs from developmental fault in the eye or the brain or the path between the eye and brain. It may also develop as a result of head injury during birth.

Majority of children suffering from nystagmus do not have any other problem except the one related to eye.

Sometimes patient may have abnormal head position along with nystagmus. It may also be associated with congenital cataract, optic atrophy. Nystagmus is more common in albinism.

The abnormal involuntary eye movement in babies increases when the child attempts to fix his vision on certain object. It also increases with fatigue and stress. They have poor vision and often balance problems. There is no cure for nystagmus. But the poor vision caused due to long or short sightedness can be corrected by using proper glasses.

What Causes Nystagmus In Babies?

Nystagmus is an eye condition in which there is involuntary eye movement.

It can develop during the early birth period or may occur congenitally. Most often the abnormal oscillation occurs as a result of any neurological or eye problem. Acquired nystagmus develops within 6 months of birth, while congenital is from the birth.

Congenital nystagmus mostly develops with albinism. Albinism is genetic disease in which the patient has lack of melanin pigments. Melanin pigments give color to skin, hair and eyes. Several eye problems can also cause nystagmus during infancy. Eye conditions in early childhood such as congenital cataract, retinal detachment, glaucoma or optic atrophy.

Congenital cataract is clouding or opacity of lens which causes blurred vision. Retinal detachment is pulling of the retina from the blood vessels of posterior segment of eye. Lack of blood and nutrient to the retina will lead to loss of vision permanently. Injury to the eye or the brain during the time of delivery is another cause for nystagmus in infants. When there is no visual or neurological impairment present, it can be termed idiopathic nystagmus.

Symptoms Of Nystagmus In Babies

Nystagmus in babies can be detected from the random movement of their eye. However the child is not aware of the problem. The oscillations especially horizontal are more obviously noted in recording but they may not be apparent even to the doctor sometimes while examining the child. The involuntary movement can be horizontal or may be up and down. In some cases the eye may move in circular direction.

Most children with nystagmus have poor vision. Their far sighted vision or near sighted vision is poor. Hence their visual acuity is less. Due to poor vision some children have loss of balance and they fall frequently injuring themselves.

They also have difficulty in moving fast. The eye is sensitive to light. Often children suffering from nystagmus hold their head in abnormal position usually tilted in one direction.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Nystagmus In Babies

Nystagmus is diagnosed with several eye tests. The doctor will investigate for family history of nystagmus. This is followed by ocular examination in which the doctor will look for other eye pathologies which may be responsible for nystagmus. The next step is to measure visual acuity, both near and distance vision is tested with appropriate refraction. This condition may be present in both eyes or may be independent of each other.

Nystagmus cannot be cured. However, children having refractory error such as short sightedness or long sightedness can be corrected with eye glasses. Almost half of the children having congenital nystagmus have some form of refractory error. Even if the refractory error is not present at birth, it can appear in first few years of life.

Glasses will help the child to see properly. A child may require large print books for reading. He may need extra time during examination because reading a question may take longer time. In certain cases surgery may be useful to reduce the intensity of nystagmus.