Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Ophthalmoplegia is the paralysis or weakness of the eye muscles. It can affect one or more of the six muscles that hold the eye in place and control its movement.
There are two types of ophthalmoplegia: chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia and internuclear ophthalmoplegia.
People affected by ophthalmoplegia may have double vision or blurred vision, as well as an inability to normally position the eyes. Some may also have a hard time moving both eyes in every direction or drooping their eyelids. Other bodily symptoms of ophthalmoplegia include difficulty swallowing and general muscle weakness.
Ophthalmoplegia can be congenital, or present at birth, or develop later in life. It is generally caused by disruption of the messages that are sent from the brain to the eyes.
Internuclear ophthalmoplegia is usually caused by multiple sclerosis, trauma, or infarction.
External ophthalmoplegia is usually caused by muscle disorders or mitochondrial diseases such as Graves or Kearnes-Sayre syndrome.
Other common causes of ophthalmoplegia include:
Ophthalmoplegia can be diagnosed with a physical examination to check eye movements. Then, an MRI or CT scan may be used to study the eye more closely.
Blood tests may be necessary to determine whether the condition is being caused other by complications, such as thyroid disease. You may be referred to an eye specialist or neurologist for these tests.
Treatment for ophthalmoplegia will depend on the type, the symptoms, and the underlying cause. Children born with ophthalmoplegia usually learn to compensate and may not be aware of vision problems. Adults with sudden onset ophthalmoplegia can be fitted for special glasses, or wear an eye patch to relieve double vision and help achieve normal vision.
Written by: Amber Erickson Gabbey and Kathryn Watson
Published on: Jan 31, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Dec 14, 2016: Elaine Luo, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.
Members save 10% on the monthly service charge of qualified AT&T wireless plans.
Members pay $9.50 for Regal ePremiere Tickets purchased online.
Members earn points on select Walgreens-brand health and wellness products.
Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.