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What Are the Causes of Rapid Eye Movement?

Eyes normally move only in response to stimuli or direct commands from the brain. If severe, rapid involuntary eye movements may interfere with vision. Rapid eye movement, or REM, can occur as a natural process or as a symptom of disease. It may indicate a serious brain disorder or occur naturally in sleep. Nystagmus -- one type of REM that can appear as shaking, jittering, side to side or up and down movements -- is a symptom of disease 23.

REM Sleep

One of five sleep stages and characteristically the most active stage physically is REM sleep. Dreaming occurs in the REM stage. Rapid eye movements and muscle twitching are accompanied by an increase in heart rate and breathing rate. Some muscles, on the other hand, become paralyzed. The average person goes through five sleep cycles each night, with REM sleep lengthening during each cycle. People enter REM stage faster and stay there longer as they age, Healthcommunities.com reports.

Congenital Nystagmus

(n.d.). ')3. Around one in 1000 infants has nystagmus, with 80 to 90 percent having severe vision loss and 10 to 20 percent having mild vision loss 23. (n.d.). ')3. The eyes swing rapidly back and forth like a pendulum. Nystagmus that starts early may improve somewhat during adulthood 23.

Acquired Nystagmus

Acquired nystagmus often occurs as a consequence of neurological or brain disorders, Windsor explains 23. Vision loss in adults doesn’t normally cause nystagmus as it does in infants and children, he adds 23. The movements of acquired nystagmus can cause vertigo and dizziness, a condition called oscillopsia 23. Head injuries, brain tumors, stroke and conditions such as multiple sclerosis may cause acquired nystagmus 23. Inner ear problems such as Meniere’s disease may also cause nystagmus 23. The movements of acquired nystagmus often include slow eye movement to one side followed by rapid movement back 23.

Anti-seizure medications such as Dilantin and Phenobarbital may cause nystagmus and oscillopsia 23. Vertical nystagmus, an up and down movement of the eyes, may be described as a rolling vision sensation, Windsor reports 23.

The Wrap Up

Eyes normally move only in response to stimuli or direct commands from the brain. Dreaming occurs in the REM stage. The average person goes through five sleep cycles each night, with REM sleep lengthening during each cycle. The movements of acquired nystagmus can cause vertigo and dizziness, a condition called oscillopsia. ')

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