Links to Nutrition
Read my disclaimer
Nystagmus is characterized
by an involuntary movement of the eyes, often noted as a shaky or wiggly
movement. Many web sites on nystagmus do not mention the role of nutrition
as a possible cause of the disorder. However, there are a significant
number of medical papers on nystagmus being caused by nutritional deficiencies
and cured by the correction of those same nutritional deficiencies, usually
magnesium or thiamin. I put up this web page to try to highlight some
of these studies and to make more people aware of the connection between
at least some cases of nystagmus and correctable nutritional factors.
Specifically, here are several
pages of study abstracts in PubMed, the medical database at the National
Institute of Healths' website from various, unaffiliated researchers
reporting correction of nystagmus due to administration of magnesium and/or
thiamin. Interestingly, when you look at the conditions that tend to occur
in conjunction with nystagmus, these conditions are also often linked
to magnesium or thiamin deficiencies.
Logically then, a nutritional
deficiency may be a root causative factor, i.e., the lowest common denominator,
between some types of nystagmus and the other conditions that occur in
association with it. Based on the available medical research, it would
be highly logical to test people with nystagmus for nutritional deficiencies,
especially those of magnesium and thiamin, before assuming they have an
incurable condition or attempting a more risky or expensive therapy.
Thiamin and Magnesium Deficiencies
The studies below are samples
of abstracts that link nystagmus to magnesium and/or thiamin deficiencies:
- In a study in the Netherlands
in 1993, nystagmus
was linked to hypomagnesemia (a deficiency of magnesium in the blood).
- In a paper published in
1981, the manifestations of magnesium deficiency noted include tremors,
myoclonic jerks, convulsions, Chvostek sign, Trousseau sign, spontaneous
carpopedal spasm, ataxia, nystagmus
and dysphagia; psychiatric disturbances, cardiac arrhythmias.
- Researchers in Switzerland
in a paper for the journal "Neurology" observed that one of
their patients had "a periodic downbeat nystagmus with a cycle
of 3 minutes 30 seconds, beating downward for a period of 90 seconds
every 2 minutes". They concluded that the nystagmus in this patient
"may have resulted from severe
hypomagnesemia, possibly associated with thiamin deficiency."
- In another paper from "Neurology",
this one from 2001, the authors note that, "Neonatal seizures are
frequently manifested by subtle movements that are referable to brain
stem structure, i.e., nystagmus, conjugate eye movements, posturing,
sucking movements, and so forth." Their paper stresses the importance
of considering metabolic abnormalities for the seizures and related
conditions. The metabolic conditions Clinical seizure signs are often
a clue to etiology. Metabolic abnormalities must always be considered,
and blood gases, calcium, magnesium,
glucose, and ammonia obtained.
- In a 1981 paper entitled,
nystagmus with magnesium depletion", the authors linked nystagmus
in two patients to a magnesium deficiency. They also noted that, "Downbeat
nystagmus also may occur from a partial deficiency of the metabolic
cofactors, magnesium and thiamin."
- Researchers from Israel
found that "In the years 1994-1997, 9 patients,,,,,with acute signs
of ophthalmoplegia or nystagmus
and ataxia which resolved within 48 hours after intravenous thiamin."
For more examples of papers
linking nystagmus to thiamin and/or magnesium deficiencies, go to PubMed
and enter either "magnesium nystagmus" or "thiamin nystagmus"
(without the quotes) in the search box.
Listed below is am excerpt
from an abstract from the Pubmed database on magnesium deficiency that
specifically notes nystagmus as one of the symptoms:
deficiency. Etiology and clinical spectrum:
"The manifestations can
be divided into the following categories: totally non-specific symptoms
and signs ascribable to the primary disease:"
- Neuromuscular hyperactivity
including myoclonic jerks, convulsions, tremor, Chvostek sign, ataxia,
Trousseau sign (rarely), spontaneous carpopedal spasm (rarely), nystagmus
- Psychiatric disturbances
- Cardiac arrhythmias
Conditions Linked to Nystagmus
The following conditions are
commonly linked to nystagmus:
One of the symptoms of fibromyalgia
is nystagmus. Fibromyalgia has been linked in some studies to magnesium
deficiency. According to a very interesting web site by Mark London, "migraine
headaches, mitral valve prolapse, and Raynaud's phenomenon, all problems
commonly found in people with fibromyalgia, are also problems that have
been associated with a magnesium
deficiency." Magnesium deficiency is a common link between all
of these symptoms.
has been linked to nystagmus As noted above, vertigo is also a symptom
of a magnesium
is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis. A 1995 paper by researchers
in Poland found that multiple sclerosis patients had a "statistically
significant decrease" of erythrocyte
disease is characterized by nystagmus, panic attacks, hearing loss,
sensitivity to noise, vertigo, headaches and sweating. All of these conditions
are also signs of a magnesium deficiency.
There may be more associations
between nystagmus, conditions associated with nystagmus and conditions
linked to magnesium deficiency. The ones above are the overlaps that I
found after a quick search through the Google search engine. Based on
the number of overlaps between the conditions linked to nystagmus and
magnesium deficiency, it would be highly logical to consider a magnesium
deficiency as a possible cause of nystagmus. As noted earlier, thiamin
deficiency should also be investigated. Thiamin is a cofactor for magnesium.
My youngest son had symptoms
of nystagmus on a couple of occasions. This is what spurred me to research
the condition. The first time my son's eyes started to wiggle uncontrollably
happened when we bought a pressed wood desk for his room. We knew that
pressed wood desks are notorious for giving off formaldehyde fumes, so
my husband had assembled the desk in the garage and left it to air out
for a week. Evidently this wasn't long enough for either myself or my
youngest son. As soon as the desk was brought inside, we both started
getting severe headaches and my son's eyes also started wiggling. As soon
as we took the desk out of the house, we were both fine again.
from Safety and Health Topics: Formaldehyde at www.osha.gov
exposure to formaldehyde can be fatal; however, the odor
threshold is low enough that irritation of the eyes and mucous
membranes will occur before these levels are achieved. Long-term
exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty,
eczema, and sensitization. Formaldehyde is classified as a human
carcinogen and has been linked to nasal and lung cancer, and with
possible links to brain cancer and leukemia." (Emphasis added)
The second time my son had
this reaction was when he opened a package from a relative who had sent
him some pictures and other family memorabilia that were over 40 years
old. Even though I could not see any obvious mold on the pictures, I suspect
the pictures and papers may have had some kind of microscopic mold or
fungus on them, because as soon as we opened the package both my son and
I started to get headaches and my son's eye started to wiggle. We put
the pictures and paper in two ziploc bags which we sealed right up, and
then we were both fine again.
So I'm not exactly sure what
substance in the desk or in the pictures caused our reactions, but I thought
it was worth mentioning in this web page for the benefit of other people
searching for nystagmus causes. In my son's case his symptoms seemed to
have been caused by either some kind of allergic reaction or a sensitivity.
Interestingly, magnesium deficiency
has been linked to increased sensitivity to allergies and chemical sensitivities.
Magnesium is one of the minerals needed to activate enzymes involved in
the body's detoxification system. As such, if magnesium levels are low
it can make people more chemically sensitive, plus it can lower existing
magnesium levels even more as they become depleted during the body's detoxification
Both my son and I have had
health problems in the past linked to magnesium deficiencies such as mitral
valve prolapse, fibromyalgia, muscle cramps and insomnia. I thought we
were getting enough magnesium these days, but perhaps it was still not
enough and a magnesium deficiency combined with the external irritants
in the desk and in the pictures both contributed to our problems. My son
has a sporadic problem with hypersensitive hearing
which we've known has
been corrected by a higher magnesium intake, so I suspect that in his
case his involuntary eye movements may also have been caused, at least
in part, by low magnesium levels.
Though it does not seem to
be well known, there is a significant body of medical research linking
nystagmus to magnesium and/or thiamin deficiencies. Magnesium and thiamin
are cofactors for each other, so it is not surprising that deficiencies
of each have been linked to nystagmus.
Many of the conditions linked
to nystagmus such as vertigo, fibromyalgia, Menieres disease and multiple
sclerosis also have been linked to magnesium deficiencies. A root causative
factor of a magnesium deficiency, or magnesium cofactor deficiency such
as thiamin, would provide a highly logical explanation for why nystagmus
commonly occurs in conjunction with these other conditions.
Magnesium deficiency is a possible
common link. Though it does not appear to be standard medical practice
to test nystagmus patients for nutritional deficiencies, based on the
existing body of research available on the PubMed database this would
seem like a highly logical consideration. There are a number of independent
medical papers that have shown nystagmus being completely cured from safe
and inexpensive nutritional therapy.