The movement of your eyes is controlled by your brain. Your eyes move reflexively to adjust for slight movement of your head. This stabilizes the image that you are looking at and allows you to see a sharper image. In people with nystagmus, the areas of the brain that control eye movements do not function normally.
Nystagmus can have a number of causes. In some cases, no cause can be identified. In other cases, nystagmus may be associated with other eye disorders or, more often in the case of acquired nystagmus, with serious medical conditions or substance use.
Among the known causes of nystagmus are:
- Heredity. Nystagmus can be inherited, with a strong family history of the disease increasing the risk for developing it;
- Albinism (lack of skin pigmentation);
- A wide range of eye disorders, including cataracts, strabismus and severe refractive errors;
- Diseases such as Meniere's disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. Stroke is a common cause of acquired nystagmus in older people;
- Injury to the head. This is a common cause of acquired nystagmus in younger people;
- Use of certain medications, such as lithium or antiseizure medications;
- Alcohol or drug use;
- Inner ear problems.
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