My first contact with nystagmus was actually while watching a rather brilliant film called “The Legend of 1900” in which I noticed one of the actors, Pruitt Taylor Vince , eyes rapidly moving from side to side.
Unsure whether it was an acting choice, a tick or something else I turned to Google which informed me that it was nystagmus, a condition that effects 1 in 1,000 people.
As today is #WobblyWednesday, what better time to do a brief write up and raise awareness of nystagmus so that you don’t make the same mistake I did when I first encountered the condition. I will cover what it is, how it effects people with the condition and how society can support those with it.
What is Nystagmus
The simplest way of describing nystagmus is to state that it is rapid involuntary movement of the eyes.
It is continuous and uncontrollable movement in the eyes. This movement can be in any direction, side to side, up and down or even in circles. There are two main types of Nystagmus. The first appears in the first few months after birth is called “congenital nystagmus” or “early onset nystagmus”. The second develops in later life and is known as “acquired nystagmus”. It often affects the nerves behind the eye rather than the eye itself.
Living with Nystagmus
It would seem obvious that the condition does effect the vision of anyone with it, but knowing more about the issues results in better awareness.
The most obvious issue is poor visual acuity (distance vision) but the closer the object is to the person the easier they can see it as the eyes move less. It also takes more time and effort to see than those without the condition. Due to the effort needed this can cause tiredness which in turn makes the condition worse.
Tracking moving objects such as balls or even cars can prove difficult, as well as cluttered or crowded areas such as busy streets or computer screens. Some people may experience oscillopsia which makes the world move, this it less common for those with early onset nystagmus but most of those with acquired nystagmus will experience this most or all of the time. This in turn may have a negative effect on a person’s balance.
How we can help
The first rule of helping anyone with any condition is to educate ourselves. There is a great support website that provides much more information than I have here called the Nystagmus Network and it can be found at the following URL:www.nystagmusnet.org
If you are providing written material of any kind, make it large print. While those with Nystagmus, as well as other visual impairments may be able to read small print if it is close enough to their eyes it is an extremely demanding and tiring, which can make the condition worse. VIR specialise in modifying existing written material to suit those with a VI (visual impairment) so please get in touch if this is a service you would like to know more about.
We can allow more time for those with Nystagmus when it comes reading, and understand this isn’t an issue with reading ability. We can be more understanding and share the knowledge you have acquired about the condition!
Here is an excellent video created by the Nystagmus Network: Youtube Link