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Abnormal Supranuclear Eye Movements in the Child:A Practical Guide to Examination and Interpretation

Survey of Ophthalmology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0039-6257(00)00114-4
  • Antisaccades
  • Convergence
  • Ocular Motor Apraxia
  • Optokinetic Nystagmus
  • Pursuit
  • Reading
  • Saccades
  • Saccade Initiation Failure
  • Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex
  • Medicine


Abstract Abnormal eye movements in the infant or young child can be congenital or acquired. They may be a result of abnormal early visual development or a sign of underlying neurologic or neuromuscular disease. It is important to be able to detect these abnormalities and to distinguish them from normal but immature eye movements. The spectrum of disease in children differs from that in adults. Serious, potentially fatal but treatable disorders can be acquired in infancy, and abnormal eye movements in a sometimes apparently well child should never be labeled as congenital or benign without careful investigation. Eye movement analysis can indicate the presence of an underlying condition and help the clinician to classify different neurologic diseases. It is important to carefully examine the ocular motor system in any children at risk of neurologic disease. This review provides a practical guide to the examination and interpretation of eye movements in the child and includes recent literature on eye movement disorders of childhood. We describe supranuclear abnormalities of the ocular motor system in the order in which we would normally examine it: saccades, pursuit, convergence, vestibulo-ocular reflex, and optokinetic nystagmus. Nystagmus, internuclear ophthalmoplegia, cranial nerve abnormalities, and “miswiring” phenomena (such as Duane's syndrome and synergistic divergence) are not discussed.

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