Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with nystagmus and an exploration of public assumptions about the condition: an electronic questionnaire study

BMC Ophthalmol. 2022 Jun 20;22(1):268. doi: 10.1186/s12886-022-02484-x.


Purpose: Nystagmus is a disorder characterized by uncontrolled, rhythmic oscillations of the eyes. It often causes reduced visual function beyond reduced visual acuity alone. There is a paucity of literature regarding the public understanding of nystagmus, and there are no published data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with the condition. This study explores the self-reported impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on those with nystagmus, and examines both public understanding of how nystagmus affects people who have it and the perceptions of public understanding by those with the condition and their carers.

Methods: A qualitative questionnaire was designed following a stakeholder engagement process. This questionnaire was advertised via social media platforms and charity websites to achieve widespread recruitment. Data were collected between November and December 2020. Participants were divided into two groups based on their response to the question: "Do you, or anyone you know well, have nystagmus?". Questions were posed to participants in a purpose-built, branching survey. The resulting data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistical methods.

Results: One thousand six hundred forty-five respondents were recruited, of which 849 (51.6%) answered "Yes" to the initial filtering question. Analysis showed that, broadly, public understanding of nystagmus differs from the perception of it by those with nystagmus and their carers, that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on those with nystagmus, and that respondents who have met someone with nystagmus, even briefly, tend to have a greater understanding of the impact of the condition.

Conclusion: This study highlights the lack of public awareness regarding nystagmus and suggests opportunities to increase the awareness of nystagmus without the need for extensive knowledge of the condition. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed additional difficulties for those living with nystagmus, which is likely to be comparable among those with similar ocular disorders.

Keywords: COVID-19; Nystagmus; Public awareness; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Electronics
  • Humans
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic* / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Social Media*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires