Richard Osman health: The ‘terrible’ condition that causes the star’s ‘dancing eyes’
Richard Osman says 'amazing people' are replacing him in Pointless
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Having risen to fame as co-presenter and creator of TV quiz show Pointless, Osman, 51, started off his career in television production where he worked as an executive producer on numerous British game shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 out of 10 Cats. Most recently he has developed his own self-titled game show, Richard Osman’s House of Games, which began back in 2017. When reflecting on his career, Osman revealed in the past he was stopped from pursuing a career as a detective due to his crippling eye condition known as nystagmus. Despite not having affected him entering the TV world, the star has admitted that some viewers have commented on his “wobbly” eyes.
“I would love to have been a detective like my grandfather,” explained in a past interview.
“Sadly, I have a condition called nystagmus that means I’ve got terrible eyesight, so it was never a possibility.”
The star has revealed that his grandfather and former policeman Tom “Fred” Wright was a huge inspiration to him starting in the episode that “so much of what I am I owe to him”.
Despite not being able to pursue his dream of joining the police force, Osman’s eye condition has in actuality helped him become one of the nations best-loved presenters. In fact, back in 2011 he was crowned viewers’ top “Weird Crush”.
Revealing more about his condition, Osman elaborated to say that he has extreme trouble trying to read an autocue as well as looking directly into the camera. One part of Osman’s brain was telling his eyes to look at the camera. The other was then allowing them to slip sideways.
With each slip and correction the eyes seem to flicker, giving the condition its characteristic name of “dancing eyes”.
Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that there are two types of nystagmus, which get their names from the way the eyes move.
The first, pendular nystagmus, the eye motion is like a pendulum swinging back and forth. The second, jerk nystagmus, which is more common, is characterised by eyes that drift slowly in one direction and then jerk back the other way.
“Staring at a fixed point when your eyes are constantly moving can make you feel nauseous and you want to look away,” Osman added, explaining the effect the condition has on him.
“I prefer my head and body to be off-centre, like in Pointless.”
Although he cannot see his eyes moving himself, the level of concentration it takes for the star to try and not move his eyes causes his head to appear as if it is subtly shaking.
However, despite the seemingly annoying symptoms nystagmus causes, Osman remains upbeat, crediting the condition for him having the career he has. He continued to say: “I don’t think I’d have the career I have now if I didn’t have poor eyesight.
“When I am editing a TV programme, there is no point asking me about a certain camera angle or the lighting. I can’t really see it. I want to talk about the feel of the show.
“I’ve found that while everyone else is thinking about what the set looks like, I am thinking hold on, that joke did not work or that relationship between those two people is not where it should be, and that is all I am focusing on, which is a useful skill.”
Osman was born with the eye condition, which can be caused by a variety of factors including diseases affecting the inner ear or certain brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Doctor Shane Kannarr from eyesight experts, All About Vision, shared more information about the condition with Express.co.uk along with crucial tips on how individuals can help deteriorating eyesight.
Commenting on the current treatment options available for individuals with nystagmus, Doctor Kannarr said: “Aside from childhood nystagmus, which can go away on its own, nystagmus can be very difficult to treat or ‘cure’. The best chance of treatment usually lies within treating the cause.
“Prescription glasses and contact lenses can help people with the condition see better, while some patients find benefit in biofeedback therapy. This treatment helps people to better control bodily functions that are usually involuntary.
“Certain types of the condition can be treated with medication or surgery but this varies on a case by case basis so it is best to discuss this with your doctor or optician.”
Doctor Kannarr’s top four tips for maintaining eye health and spotting when something isn’t quite right include:
- See an eye care provider regularly – Routine eye appointments are key to catching any form of eye condition early enough to treat it. They’re also an important part of monitoring any ongoing conditions. While nystagmus itself isn’t a threat to your health, it can indicate a more serious, life-threatening condition such as brain tumour or stroke
- Stop smoking – If you smoke, you’re more likely to get cataracts, damage to your optic nerve and macular degeneration. Nicotine in cigarettes is also one of the main triggers for nystagmus so try cutting the habit if you want to keep your eyes healthy and manage your symptoms
- Keep fit – Exercising more increases blood circulation, which improves the oxygen levels to our eyes and helps remove any toxins. Moving more can also help keep you calm and relaxed, which will prevent hyperventilation, one of the triggers of nystagmus. Try doing whatever you can to be active during the day, especially if you work at a desk
- Limit alcohol intake – Drinking alcohol can be one of the triggers so if you want to improve not only your general health, but your eye health too. You should try limiting your alcohol intake so you’ll be able to manage your symptoms and keep yourself healthy.
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