Involuntary movement of the eyes

This page was last updated on Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Nystagmus Test

The nystagmus test is often used as a preliminary test for ethanol (ethyl alcohol) consumption but this testing is not absolute because of other factors and that some people are born with nystagmus.  However, one of the most common cause of nystagmus is sleep deprivation. Nystagmus is characterized by an involuntary and often rhythmic movement of the eyes. The problem is that some actors used this movement as a substitute for comic humor while ignoring the fact that some people are born with nystagmus. 

In nystagmus, the eyes may move in a circle, up and down, side to side, and sometimes in combination of all these motions. Moreover, the speed and regularity of the motions can be unpredictable. This condition can be a product of some abnormality or disease that affects the brain, vision, or hearing. Some persons are born nystagmus and this type of nystagmus is called congenital nystagmus. Acquired nystagmus can be a result of disease, injury, work environment, or occupation. Some medications may cause acquired nystagmus in some people.

There are three forms of nystagmus: side to side, up and down, and rotary and the nature of these disorders is not understood. Perhaps the inner ear senses movement that might be connected to eye movement. That eye movement may give a cue to position and location that may be similar to ear movement that is found in many animals and some blind persons. The nature of nystagmus is not well understood and a complete description about nystagmus is beyond the scope of this paper. Additional information about nystagmus can be found at the Medline Plus web site at the address shown below.

Edward Steven Nunes

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003037.htm (Repaired 12DEC2011)