Skip navigation

Spasmus nutans

Spasmus nutans is a disorder affecting infants and young children. It involves rapid, uncontrolled eye movements, head bobbing, and occasionally, abnormal positioning of the neck.

See also: Nystagmus

Causes

Most cases of spasmus nutans begin between age 4 months and 1 year. It usually goes away by itself in several months to years.

The cause is unknown, although it may be associated with other medical conditions. An association with iron or vitamin D deficiency has been suggested. Rarely, symptoms similar to spasmus nutans may be due to certain types of brain tumors or other serious conditions.

Symptoms

  • Small, quick, side-to-side eye movements (nystagmus) - both eyes are involved, but each eye may move differently
  • Head nodding
  • Head tilting

Exams and tests

A neurologic examination confirms the presence of the symptoms.

Tests may include:

Treatment

The benign form of spasmus nutans requires no treatment. If the symptoms are caused by another condition, that condition must be treated appropriately.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Usually, this disorder goes away on its own without treatment.

Possible Complications

There are usually no complications.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your child has rapid involuntary movements of the eyes or head nodding. The doctor will need to perform an exam to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms.

References

Olitsky SE, Hug D, Smith LP. Disorders of eye movement and alignment. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th Ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 622. 

Alper I. Dai, Oguzhan Saygili. Risk Factors in Spasmus Nutans. Adv Clin Exp Med 2011, 20, 2, 183–186.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Update Date: 5/28/2013

Updated by: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, FRCS (C), FACS, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles CA; Department of Surgery at Los Robles Hospital, Thousand Oaks CA; Department of Surgery at Ashland Community Hospital, Ashland OR; Department of Surgery at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, Cheyenne WY; Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo