PANCE Blueprint EENT (7%)

Nystagmus (ReelDx)


55 y/o male with nystagmus with abduction of the right eye

Patient will present as → a 46-year-old male with an involuntary, rapid, and repetitive movement of both eyes side to side.

Nystagmus is an involuntary, rapid, and repetitive movement of the eyes

Usually, the movement is side-to-side (horizontal nystagmus), but it can also be up and down (vertical nystagmus) or circular (rotary nystagmus). The movement can vary between slow and fast, and it usually involves both eyes

There are two types of nystagmus: congenital and acquired

1. Congenital nystagmus develops in infancy, usually between six weeks and three months of age. Sensory nystagmus also occurs early in life and is related to poor vision caused by a variety of eye conditions, including cataracts (cloudiness of the eye's lens), strabismus (eye misalignment), and optic nerve hypoplasia. As they get older, children with nystagmus don't see the world as shaky, but they will probably develop less clear vision.

2. Acquired nystagmus occurs later in life and has a variety of causes, including an association with serious medical conditions. Unlike children with nystagmus, adults who acquire nystagmus may see images as shaky.

Caloric reflex test in which one ear canal is irrigated with warm or cold water or air. The temperature gradient provokes the stimulation of the horizontal semicircular canal and the consequent nystagmus

  • The resulting movement of the eyes may be recorded and quantified by electronystagmography (ENG), a form of electrooculography (an electrical method of measuring eye movements using external electrodes), or a videonystagmograph (VNG), a form of video-oculography (VOG) (a video-based method of measuring eye movements using external small cameras built into head masks) by an audiologist
  • Special swinging chairs with electrical controls can be used to induce rotatory nystagmus

Orthoptists may also use an optokinetic drum or electrooculography to assess a patient's eye movements

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be necessary to evaluate for intracranial lesions

Congenital nystagmus has traditionally been viewed as non-treatable, but medications have been discovered in recent years that show promise in some patients

  • Baclofen can effectively stop periodic alternating nystagmus
  • Gabapentin improvement in about half the patients who received it to relieve symptoms of nystagmus
  • Other drugs found to be effective against nystagmus in some patients include memantine, levetiracetam, 3,4-diaminopyridine, 4-aminopyridine, and acetazolamide
  • Contact lenses and low-vision rehabilitation have also been proposed
  • Tenotomy is now being performed regularly at numerous centers around the world
  • Acupuncture has conflicting evidence as to having beneficial effects on the symptoms of nystagmus
  • Physical therapy or occupational therapy is also used to treat nystagmus. Treatment consists of learning compensatory strategies to take over for the impaired system
  • Surgery may be required depending on the cause

osmosis Osmosis
Question 1
A patient presents with a 3-day history of vertigo associated with turning over in bed, which lasts for several minutes. There are no other symptoms of the ear. Dix–Hallpike testing shows rotary nystagmus, which diminishes with repeated testing. Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
central nervous system (CNS) lesion
Central lesions often have dissociation of the vertigo and nystagmus. The nystagmus in this condition is often vertical and without fatigability with repeated testing.
positional vertigo
Meniere disease
vestibular neuronitis
Question 1 Explanation: 
This patient has positional vertigo, which is assumed to be caused by movement of a small canalith within the inner ear. This is a benign process that is often self-limited. The Dix–Hallpike is positional testing that confirms this type of vertigo. Central lesions often have dissociation of the vertigo and nystagmus. The nystagmus in this condition is often vertical and without fatigability with repeated testing. The other three options will all have vertigo that is not altered by position and have additional ear symptoms such as tinnitus or hearing loss. In benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, positional exercises are helpful in quickening its resolution. Canalith repositioning procedures are effective at resolving the vertigo in about 80% of cases with just one outpatient treatment.
Question 2
A 39-year-old woman presents to the ED with agitation, tremors, visual hallucinations, fever, and tachycardia. The eye examination reveals nystagmus and a sixth cranial nerve palsy. Which of the following conditions best describes this clinical scenario?  
Korsakoff psychosis
Wernicke encephalopathy
acute dystonia
acute cocaine toxicity
trigeminal neuralgia
Question 2 Explanation: 
Wernicke encephalopathy is a potentially fatal neurologic disorder found in alcoholics with poor nutritional status that is caused by chronic vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency. Alcoholism interferes with gastrointestinal absorption of vitamin B1 and impairs conversion of vitamin B1 to its active metabolite. In many patients, concomitant liver disease impairs the storage of vitamin B1. The administration of glucose to an alcoholic patient with an inadequate supply of thiamine may precipitate this disorder. Clinical features include the triad of abnormal mental status, ophthalmoplegia, and gait ataxia. Patients are often disoriented, forgetful, and unable to recognize familiar objects. With prompt therapy, the ophthalmoplegia usually resolves within hours and the coma resolves in hours to days, but the memory deficit may never resolve. Thiamine 100 mg administered intravenously is the treatment of choice. Thiamine 100 mg intravenous administration is continued daily until the patient has achieved proper oral nutritional status. It is essential that thiamine is given prior to the administration of glucose.
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References: Merck Manual · UpToDate

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