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Latent and congenital nystagmus in Down syndrome. J Neuroophthalmol 1999 Sep;19(3):166-72



Pubmed ID



OBJECTIVES: Although nystagmus has been reported in Down syndrome (DS), it has been poorly characterized, because most investigators have relied on clinical observations rather than on eye movement recordings. This study was conducted to investigate nystagmus in DS, using quantitative measurements of eye movements.

METHODS: Ocular motility and visual functions were examined in 26 unselected adults with DS and compared with those in an age-matched group of 35 subjects with other causes of mental retardation. The eye movements of those with clinically evident nystagmus were recorded with the infrared technique. We also recorded the eye movements of a child with DS and nystagmus.

RESULTS: Nystagmus was identified in six (23%) adults with DS and in none in the control group. All six patients showed latent/manifest latent nystagmus (LMLN), prominent with the covering of one eye, and esodeviations of 10 to 30 prism diopters. Eye movement recordings confirmed LMLN with its exponentially decaying waveform. Frequencies ranged from 2 to 5 Hz and amplitudes from 5 degrees to 20 degrees. While attempting to fixate straight ahead in the absence of visual cues, three subjects exhibited shifts in the mean eye position. In contrast with the findings in adults, the only child with DS examined had both congenital nystagmus and LMLN waveforms.

CONCLUSIONS: The predominant type of nystagmus in the study subjects with DS is LMLN. The high prevalence of LMLN may reflect abnormal integration of visuospatial information that is typical of DS. The concurrent presence of congenital nystagmus in a child but only LMLN in the adults with DS raises the possibility of age-related waveform changes or could reflect sample variation.

Author List

Averbuch-Heller L, Dell'Osso LF, Jacobs JB, Remler BF


Bernd F. Remler MD Professor in the Neurology department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Down Syndrome
Middle Aged
Nystagmus, Pathologic