Recently I received an email from one of my readers, Jeff, about nystagmus, which is an involuntary eye movement. He makes some excellent observations drawing on his own experiences with Meniere’s disease and the movement of his eyes.
I'm still not sure I've got a handle on what nystagmus really is and what is means (isn't it just a complex description of a symptom?), but I get two different types of eye effects depending on the severity of an attack.
With a bigger attack (less frequent for me now, thankfully) the main symptom is the 'washing machine' effect where the world appears to be spinning around me. (Occasionally it's not as strong and instead of rotation is a shift from one side to the other.) Naturally my eyes try to sort out the mess by tracking the movement for a second, until either I blink or my eyes snap back to the centre and start tracking again. I wouldn't describe this as completely involuntary, though, more of an instinctive response; if I want to I can stop my eyes tracking in which case they would drift to one side and lose focus. A relatively big attack is gone in an hour.
With a lesser attack, I get what feels like a slight side-to-side shaking of what I see, which results in a slightly blurry picture and difficulty focusing closely. Now I *would* describe this as involuntary as there doesn't seem to be anything I can do to affect it. In fact, I'm not sure that my eyes are moving at all and that this isn't something that's just happening in my brain! After about 20mins the shaking has usually gone.
These lesser attacks are a more recent development. I think they're probably less severe versions of the bigger attacks, but they do feel like something slightly different at the same time.
My own attacks have changed over the past year. When an attack occurs my eyes tend to ‘jerk” to one side as though someone had pushed my head to one side. There is a little spinning after that and I do feel very tired after the experience.
Thanks Jeff for the great comment!