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Cranial mononeuropathy VI

Definition

Cranial mononeuropathy VI is a nerve disorder. It affects the function of the sixth cranial nerve. As a result, the person may have double vision.

Alternative Names

Abducens paralysis; Abducens palsy; Lateral rectus palsy; Vith nerve palsy; Cranial nerve VI palsy

Causes

Cranial mononeuropathy VI is damage to the sixth cranial (skull) nerve. This nerve, also called the abducens nerve, helps you move your eye sideways toward your temple.

Disorders of this nerve can occur with:

  • Brain aneurysms
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Gradenigo syndrome (which also causes discharge from the ear and eye pain)
  • Increased or decreased pressure in the skull
  • Infections (such as meningitis or sinusitis)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Stroke
  • Trauma (caused by head injury or accidentally during surgery)
  • Tumors around or behind the eye

In some people, there is no clear cause.

Because there are common nerve pathways through the skull, the same disorder that damages the sixth cranial nerve may affect other cranial nerves (such as the third or fourth cranial nerve).

Symptoms

When the sixth cranial nerve does not work properly, you cannot turn your eye outwards toward your ear. You can still move your eye up, down, and toward the nose, unless other nerves are affected.

Symptoms may include:

  • Double vision when looking to one side
  • Headaches
  • Pain around the eye

Exams and Tests

Tests typically show that one eye has trouble looking to the side, while the other eye moves normally. An examination shows the eyes do not line up either at rest or when looking in the direction of the weak eye.

Your health care provider will do a complete examination to determine the possible effect on other parts of the nervous system. Depending on the suspected cause, you may need:

You may need to be referred to a doctor who specializes in vision problems related to the nervous system (neuro-ophthalmologist).

Treatment

If your health care provider diagnoses swelling or inflammation of, or around the nerve, medications called corticosteroids may be used.

Sometimes, the condition disappears without treatment. People with diabetes may benefit from close control of blood sugar levels.

Until the nerve heals, wearing an eye patch relieves double vision.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Treating the cause may improve the condition. Most people in whom no cause is found recover completely.

Possible Complications

Complications may include permanent vision changes.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have double vision.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent this condition. Persons with diabetes may reduce the risk by controlling their blood sugar.

References

Rucker JC. Cranial neuropathies. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 70.

Review Date:5/20/2014
Reviewed By:Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., 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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Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

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