I have this. Always have. I can make it happen at will and it also happens automatically when I try to focus on somthing narrow (such as the end of a ruler) placed 10-15 inches in front of the bridge of my nose.

I am told that this condition, in the absence of other, related symptoms, is benign.

It has occasionally been useful, such as a time in High School in which the P.E. Coach hit a volleyball with a baseball bat and it hit me right in the head, knocking me over. It didn't hurt that bad, but when he bent over me, my eyes focused on his whistle and started shaking. He practically had a heart attack, thinking he'd damaged my brain or something. Priceless.

Nystagmus, "eye wiggles" is a common side-effect of MDMA (ecstacy) and other related drugs. Your vision goes blurry as your eyeballs are shaking from side to side more rapidly than you can voluntarily move them. it's a lot like like shivering, a trembling hand or chattering teeth.

Like Webster says, it is rapid and involuntary, and it temporarily impairs your ability to see. Voluntarily moving your eyes back and forth is not really nystagmus as it is not rapid or uncontrolled, any more than opening and closing your mouth means that your teeth are chattering.

Under the circumstances, I found it weird and interesting, but not unpleasant. In fact, everything was pleasant right then. However I can see how it could be considered an impairment if you need to do something that requires being able to see straight, or if it didn't stop.

Some people are able to induce a little nystagmus in themselves by determined squinting.

Nystagmus is characterized by a jerky back and forth movement of the eyes. It can be genetic in origin, caused by damage in the womb, or caused by brain damage. Nystagmus can also be induced by closing your eyes and spinning around in a chair. Police officers often check for nystagmus in drivers suspected of driving under the influence. There is currently no cure for nystagmus, however operations that relax the eye muscles have been tried with some success. Biofeedback has also been used to help people with nystagmus to learn how to control it.

Normal people have minute lateral eye movements called saccades that are necessary for sight. These movements are more pronounced in people with nystagmus. Often, a person with nystagmus will attempt to compensate for these movements by unconsciously moving the head back and forth. This is often mistaken by observers as a "no" signal and can be detrimental in social situations.

As somebody who has genetically caused nystagmus, I prefer to think of nystagmus as "dancing eyes." More information may be found at http://www.nystagmus.org/

Nystagmus is also a symptom of certain disorders affecting the inner ear, notably Menière's Disease. One of the diagnostic aids for Menière's Disease is to pour cool water into one of the patient's ears; the presence of prominent nystagmus is evidence towards the disease. A physician is shown performing this test on one of the astronauts slated to go land on the moon in a documentary series that ran on PBS (the name of the series eludes me at the moment) several years ago.

Nys*tag"mus (?), n. [NL., fr. Gr. drowsiness, fr. to nod in sleep, to slumber.] Med.

A rapid involuntary oscillation of the eyeballs.


© Webster 1913.

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