What is Nystagmus? Shaking Eyes?

Picture: Quick Reference Neuroscience Second Edition by Sharon A. Gutman

Generally speaking, in Multiple Sclerosis, there are two types of nystagmus; vertical and horizontal. Of coarse you can have a combination of both but what is Nystagmus? Ever notice that when you scan your eyes from left to right/right to left or up and down that they seem to quickly jump, skip, or shake? Is it hard to focus on a stationary object because it seems to be skipping around a bit? Nystagmus is a quick involuntary back and forth skipping/jerking of the eye. Nystagmus (in MS) may be caused by a lesion in the part of the brain that controls eye movement. In some cases, nystagmus can be caused also be caused by Ataxia. This is externally visible meaning, other people can see your eyes skipping or if you were to film yourself (like I have in the past; seen below) you can see it yourself while trying to slowly scan your eyes horizontally or vertically.


There are certain drugs that can be taken that might help this symptom including;

  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Memantine (Namenda)
  • Baclofen
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
Sometimes there is one side that seems to be worse than the other. So, for example, looking to your left might make things seem more stable than looking to your right where the shaking gets worse. So learning to find that stable spot and positioning your head in away that keeps that spot centered can help get around until the nystagmus goes away in time.
I never took any medication for nystagmus. I just waited it out until it went away. I am sure if I had really brought it up to what ever doctor I was seeing at the time they would have put me on some kind of coarse of steroids to speed up the recovery. 

Here is a videoI shot of myself back in October of 2012 when I first had Nystagmus. I am trying to follow a pen that I am holding out in front of me and slowly moving from left to right, up and down. Notice how my eyes do not follow a steady path? They keep stopping, jerking or skipping.

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