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Supranuclear ophthalmoplegia

Definition

Supranuclear ophthalmoplegia is a condition that affects the movement of the eyes.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

This disorder occurs because the brain is sending and receiving faulty information through the nerves that control eye movement. The nerves themselves are healthy.

People who have this problem may have progressive supranuclear palsy, a disorder that affects the way the brain controls movement. A brain injury (such as stroke) also can cause supranuclear ophthalmoplegia.

Symptoms

People with this condition are unable to move their eyes in all directions, especially looking upward.

Signs and tests

An exam of the nervous system (neurological examination) may show:

  • Limited eye movements, especially vertical movements
  • Mild dementia
  • Normal vision, hearing, sensation, and voluntary control of movement
  • Stiff and uncoordinated movements like those of Parkinson's disease

The health care provider may do tests to rule out other diseases. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) might show shrinking of the brainstem.

Treatment

The treatment depends on the cause of the supranuclear ophthalmoplegia.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook depends on the cause of the supranuclear ophthalmoplegia.

References

Lang A. Parkinsonism. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 433.


Review Date: 5/21/2012
Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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