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The Links to Nutrition



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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.

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Nystagmus, 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, "Downbeat 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:

Magnesium 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 and dysphagia

  • Hypokalemia

  • Psychiatric disturbances

  • Cardiac arrhythmias

  • Hypocalcemia

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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.

Vertigo has been linked to nystagmus As noted above, vertigo is also a symptom of a magnesium deficiency.

Nystagmus 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 magnesium levels.

Menieres 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.

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My Son's Experience

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.

Excerpt from Safety and Health Topics: Formaldehyde at www.osha.gov

"Short-term 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 processes.

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.

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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.



Visit my home page or my site map to use my search feature, and see information on connective tissue disorders and related features.

For a list of books that helped my connective tissue disorder symptoms, including my fibromyalgia, TMJ, MVP and scoliosis, please see my recommended book list.

These sections may be also of special interest:

Marfan Syndrome - nystagmus is a common feature of this genetic disorder.

Cures for eye floaters - the links to muscular tension and how yoga and diet changes helped me.

My experience and treatments for the symptoms of vertigo, nausea and cold feet

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