Supranuclear ophthalmoplegia

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


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

. This is a disorder that affects the way the brain controls movement. A brain injury (such as ) also can cause supranuclear ophthalmoplegia.


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

Exams 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 other movements
  • Stiff and uncoordinated movements like those of Parkinson disease

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


The treatment depends on the cause of the supranuclear ophthalmoplegia.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook depends on the cause of the supranuclear ophthalmoplegia.


Lavin PJM. Neuro-ophthalmology: ocular motor system. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 35.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 5/28/2014
  • Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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