Ophthalmoplegia With Migraine in Adults: Is It Ophthalmoplegic Migraine?

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Ophthalmoplegic migraine (OM) is a rare disorder characterized by recurrent oculomotor nerve palsy in children, following migraine headaches. We report 62 adults, seen consecutively, who developed acute ophthalmoplegia with severe attacks of migraine over a 10-year (1996-2005) period. An overwhelming majority of these patients had an antecedent worsening in severity of migraine headaches, before the ophthalmoplegic attack.


Sixty-two patients, aged 15-68 years, with an acute attack of OM underwent detailed clinical, biochemical, and neuroradiological evaluation.


There were 62 patients with 86 attacks of OM. Whereas 48 patients had a single attack, 14 had 2 or more attacks, fulfilling the International Headache Society criteria for probable and definite OM, respectively. At presentation, isolated abducens, oculomotor, and trochlear nerve involvements were seen in 35 (56.5%), 21 (33.9%), and 5 (8.1%) patients, respectively. One patient had simultaneous involvement of 3rd and 6th nerves. Fifty-one (82.3%) patients exhibited an antecedent worsening in severity of migraine, before developing ophthalmoplegia during (59/95.2%) or within 24 hours (3/4.8%) of a severe migraine attack, respectively. Detailed biochemistry and cranial neuroimaging were normal. No case had any nerve enhancement. Use of steroids hastened recovery (P< .05).


We conclude: (1) OM in adults is characterized by single attacks of ophthalmoplegia in a great majority of patients; and (2) 6th nerve involvement occurs commonly. Our results indicate that moving OM to the chapter on cranial neuralgias in the second edition of the International Headache Classification may be premature, since nerve palsy occurred during a severe migraine attack in all patients.

(Headache 2009;49:838-850)

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