Acquired nystagmus

Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2020 Nov 2;81(11):1-8. doi: 10.12968/hmed.2020.0320. Epub 2020 Dec 1.


Nystagmus is the repetitive to and fro movement of the eyes, which may be physiological or pathological. The movements can be horizontal, vertical, torsional or a combination of these movements. It starts by a slow movement of the eye away from the visual target. The second movement brings the eye back to the visual target. If this second movement is quick, the nystagmus is called jerk nystagmus. If the second movement is slow, the nystagmus is said to be pendular. Maintaining steady gaze is dependent upon visual fixation, the vestibulo-ocular reflex and the gaze-holding neural integrator system. Pathological nystagmus typically presents with the symptom of oscillopsia, which is the illusory movement of the surrounding environment. Nystagmus that develops outside of early infancy is termed acquired nystagmus. There may be serious underlying pathology that will require further investigation and management. This article reviews the terminology, pathophysiology, causes and treatment of acquired nystagmus.

Keywords: Acquired nystagmus; Conjugate nystagmus; Horizontal nystagmus; Nystagmus; Oscillopsia; Rotational nystagmus; Vertical nystagmus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic* / diagnosis
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular