• Can nystagmus cause color blindness?


    Question:

    My friend has congenital nystagmus (when the eyes move rapidly and uncontrollably) and is a forensic scientist. He has never had many issues with his vision, as he adapted and is able to perform all tasks in life thus far (drive during the day and at night, play sports, etc.). He was recently promoted and one of his tasks now involves looking at biological fluids under an alternate light source. Some stains fluoresce (shine) brightly and other stains are very faint. He was able to see some of the stains, but has been missing others and is very surprised, frustrated, and discouraged because they are being documented as mistakes. I was reading about nystagmus and found that people with nystagmus can have other medical conditions. Is it possible that he is "color-blind" to fluorescence and/or faint fluorescence off of something such as a biological fluid?


    Answer:

    Congenital nystagmus can be associated with a number of other eye conditions. Achromatopsia is a genetic condition in which the color receptors of the retina do not properly function, leading to complete color blindness. I would think your friend would have known this by now since it would have been present at birth. Milder forms of achromatopsia do exist where color vision can be affected to a milder degree. This can be associated with nystagmus in some conditions. I would suggest your friend find an ophthalmologist that specializes in neuro-ophthalmology and they can likely pick this up from a routine color testing exam that is easy and quick to do in the office. If a problem is picked up from the color test, an electroretinogram (ERG) is a lengthier exam done at a specialty center and it may be performed to determine the degree of color vision problems in severe cases. This may not be needed depending on the results of the initial exam.


    Answered By: