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International Nystagmus Awareness Day: Some lesser-known facts

By Bhoomika S
|
Google Oneindia News

New Delhi, Jun 20: American Optometric Association defines nystagmus as a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements. Despite being quite prevalent in the population, it is a less-known and often misunderstood condition.

International Nystagmus Awareness Day: Some lesser-known facts

June 20 is celebrated as International Nystagmus Awareness Day to raise awareness about the condition and the difficulties of those who live with it. Here are some facts about it.

History

The first celebration of this day was in 2021. The Nystagmus Network, a non-governmental organisation, took the initiative to celebrate International Nystagmus Awareness Day on June 20 as it would serve as a reminder to everyone that people who have nystagmus exist and their voices need to be heard too.

The organisation was founded in 1984 as a registered charity in England and Wales. The goal of the organisation was to provide support and information and raise awareness about and fund research related to nystagmus. It believes that the more people know about it, the better and easier it is for those with nystagmus.

Population numbers

Nystagmus is a condition that affects nearly one baby in every 1,000 babies born. Approximately 24 per 10,000 persons globally suffer from nystagmus today.

Nystagmus: types, causes, symptoms

Nystagmus, also commonly called "dancing eyes," occurs in two types: jerk and pendular nystagmus. In jerk nystagmus, the eyes jerk quickly in one direction and slowly back in the other direction. In pendular nystagmus, the eyes move in both directions at the same speed.

Nystagmus occurs in the following forms: congenital, acquired or as a secondary condition due to a pre-existing neurological condition, like epilepsy, narcolepsy, etc. As a congenital condition, nystagmus occurs because of compromised vestibulocochlear nerves, issues in the brainstem or cerebellum, etc. It is early-onset, as in cases of Down syndrome, Noonan syndrome, albinism, rod monochromatism, etc.

Congenital nystagmus can be caused by the mutation of the X-chromosomal gene FMRD7. For acquired nystagmus, severe head injuries, sleep deprivation, strokes, and illegal or excessive use of certain drugs (MDMA, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, etc.) could be some of the major causes. Sometimes, the cause is just unknown, making it idiopathic.

Some common symptoms of nystagmus are observable involuntary eye movement, blurred appearances of objects or people, vision problems at night, extreme sensitivity to light, balance problems or dizziness, etc. Comprehensive eye tests can easily recognise these symptoms as nystagmus. Ear exam, brain MRI, neurological exams, etc., can also diagnose nystagmus.

Difficulties of people with nystagmus and treatment

For some people, this condition can be benign or ever-increasing. It could be so bad that they can be legally blind. Because their eye movements place them apart from others with normal eyesight, people with nystagmus face several underlying self-image issues, social ridicule, and isolation.

This makes early diagnosis of nystagmus extremely crucial. Though there seems to be no permanent cure for this condition, certain drugs have shown promising results in a few trials. Moreover, contact lenses, spectacles, invasive surgeries, etc., seem to help children with nystagmus. Early interventions can change the life of the person suffering from nystagmus.

Celebrating International Nystagmus Awareness Day, 2022

There are many ways to celebrate this day, but the most important one would be to learn how people live with this condition and how every one of us can help in bettering their lives. Sharing information on social media to raise awareness among friends and family, advocating for those unable to speak for themselves, taking part in support groups for such people, etc., are some ways to celebrate this day.

Nystagmus Network also conducts workshops and photography and drawing competitions in the UK for those suffering from nystagmus on this day. This helps them explore their creativity and find community support for their condition.

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