Ophthalmoplegia: Paralysis or Weakness of the Eye Muscles

Have you ever felt paralysis or weakness of eye muscles? A condition called ophthalmoplegia refers to the paralysis or weakness of the eye muscles which can affect one or more of the six muscles that are responsible for holding our eye in its place. It is important to know the two types of ophthalmoplegia which are chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia and internal ophthalmoplegia.

Chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia is usually common in adults between 18 and 40 years old. The condition begins with ptosis or drooping eyelids and the muscles that coordinate the eyes are difficult to control. Internuclear ophthalmoplegia is associated with some disorders. The condition is caused by nerve damage to the nerve fibers which leads to double vision.

The most common symptom of ophthalmoplegia is having double or blurred vision. They may have a hard time moving both eyes in every direction and experience inability to position eyes in sync. The symptoms may include general muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing if the ophthalmoplegia is associated with a systemic disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors of Ophthalmoplegia

Ophthalmoplegia can be present at birth or develop later in life which is caused by the disruption of the messages from the brain to the eyes. Internuclear ophthalmoplegia is usually caused by multiple sclerosis, trauma, or infarction. External ophthalmoplegia is often caused by muscle disorders or mitochondrial diseases including Graves’ disease or Kearns-Sayre syndrome. The other common causes include migraine, thyroid disease, stroke, brain tumor, brain injury, and infection.

Ophthalmoplegia is more likely to occur in people with diabetes. It was recently identified that men with diabetes who are over 45 and have had type 2 diabetes for more than 10 years are at a higher risk for developing ophthalmoplegia. People who have multiple sclerosis or Graves’ disease or any condition that affects muscle control are more at risk than others.

How to Prevent and Treat Ophthalmoplegia

closeup of eye paralysis

The treatment for ophthalmoplegia depends on the type, symptoms, and underlying cause. Special glasses or eye patches are given to adults to relieve double vision. Some cases showed that treatment of migraines can improve the outcomes for people with ophthalmoplegia.

Keeping a healthy vascular system is important to lessen the risk of stroke and other related vision problems. Remember that the eye has delicate muscles. It is recommended to visit an eye specialist every two years even if you have a normal vision to aid in early detection.

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