Nystagmus and Vision Therapy
Nystagmus is an eye condition characterized by rapid, uncontrolled eye movements from side to side, up and down, or in circles. It can begin in infancy or develop later in life.
People with nystagmus tend to have problems with depth perception, struggle to identify moving objects or people, and experience difficulties with balance and night vision. Their head might exhibit “null point”: tilting the head so the eyes can see more comfortably from that position.
Nystagmus is caused by the brain’s inability to control eye movements and may be a symptom of other eye conditions (such as severe myopia, astigmatism, and congenital cataracts) or medical problems (such as brain abnormalities, inner-ear inflammation, central-nervous-system diseases, medication side effects, and albinism). Eyesight may vary, depending at what age nystagmus began. Adults may also exhibit signs of nystagmus due to multiple sclerosis or after experiencing a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or stroke.
Diagnosing nystagmus starts with an in-depth eye examination to evaluate the eyes’ ability to focus, move vertically and horizontally, work as a team, and shift focus from object to object. Eyeglasses or contact lenses do not fully correct the condition, but at least being able to see more clearly may alleviate some of the symptoms. Because nystagmus is frequently related to other medical issues, patients are often referred to a variety of health care providers, including general practitioners, neurologists, or otorhinolaryngologists (ENTs).
This Is Where Vision Therapy Comes In
Vision therapy can help many patients with nystagmus. It is a customized regimen of exercises taught in our office and continued by the patient at home. Vision therapy trains the eyes to work together and master the necessary visual skills – including both eyes moving and working together to track shifting objects, whether far away, closeby, or on the periphery of the visual field.
For example, vision therapy can train the eyes to move together across a page to fixate on one word and then another. Doing so can make reading a more comfortable activity and boost reading comprehension.
Vision therapy can help some patients with nystagmus to reduce or slow their eye movements, improve focus, enable eye contact with another person, and reduce fatigue while reading. Some nystagmus patients benefit from vision therapy that includes prism or bifocal lenses.
Thompson Family Optometry provides vision therapy for patients with nystagmus in Brampton, Milton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, and throughout Ontario.