Cranial mononeuropathy III - compression type
Cranial mononeuropathy III -- compression type -- is a problem with the function of the third cranial nerve that causes double vision and eyelid drooping.
Third cranial nerve palsy; Oculomotor palsy; Pupil-involving third cranial nerve palsy
Cranial mononeuropathy III - compression type is a mononeuropathy, which means that only one nerve is affected. It affects the third cranial (oculomotor) nerve, one of the cranial nerves that controls eye movement. Local tumors or swelling can press on and damage the nerve.
Causes may include:
- Brain aneurysms
- Poorly formed blood vessels (vascular malformations)
- Sinus thrombosis
- Tissue damage from loss of blood flow (infarction)
- Trauma (from head injury or caused accidentally during surgery)
- Tumors or other growths (especially tumors at the base of the brain and pituitary gland)
Rarely, people with migraine headaches may have a temporary problem with the oculomotor nerve. This is probably due to a spasm of the blood vessels. In some cases, no cause can be found.
- Double vision
- Drooping of one eyelid (ptosis)
- Enlarged pupil that reacts poorly to light
- Headache or eye pain
Other symptoms may occur if the cause is a tumor or trauma. Decreasing consciousness is a serious sign, because it could indicate brain damage or impending death.
Exams and Tests
An eye examination may show:
- Enlarged (dilated) pupil of the affected eye
- Eye movement abnormalities
- Eyes that are not aligned (dysconjugate gaze)
A complete medical and nervous system (neurological) examination is performed to find out if any other parts of the body are affected.
Other tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Tests to look at blood vessels to the brain (cerebral angiogram, CT angiogram, or MR angiogram)
- MRI or CT scan of the brain
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
You may need to be referred to a doctor who specializes in vision problems related to the nervous system (neuro-ophthalmologist).
Some people get better without treatment. Treating the cause (if it can be found) may relieve the symptoms in many cases.
Treatment may include:
- Corticosteroid medications to reduce swelling and relieve pressure on the nerve
- Eye patch or glasses with prisms to reduce double vision
- Pain medications
- Surgery to treat eyelid drooping or eyes that are not aligned
Some cranial nerve dysfunctions will respond to treatment. A few cases result in some permanent loss of function.
Causes such as brain swelling due to a tumor or stroke or a brain aneurysm may be life-threatening.
- Permanent eyelid drooping
- Permanent vision changes
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have double vision and it doesn't go away in a few minutes, especially if you also have eyelid drooping.
Quickly treating disorders that could press on the nerve may reduce the risk of developing cranial mononeuropathy III.
Baloh RW. Neuro-ophthalmology. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 450.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.