Horner syndrome


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What is Horner syndrome?

Horner syndrome is a combination of signs and symptoms caused by the disruption of a nerve pathway from the brain to the face and eye on one side of the body.

Typically, Horner syndrome results in a decreased pupil size, a drooping eyelid and decreased sweating on the affected side of your face.

Horner syndrome is the result of another medical problem, such as a stroke, tumor or spinal cord injury. In some cases, no underlying cause can be found. There’s no specific treatment for Horner syndrome, but treatment for the underlying cause may restore normal nerve function.

Horner syndrome is also known as Horner-Bernard syndrome or oculosympathetic palsy.

How common is Horner syndrome?

This Horner syndrome is extremely common. It commonly affects more females than males. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Horner syndrome?

The common symptoms of Horner syndrome are:

  • Decreased sweating on the affected side of the face
  • Drooping eyelid (ptosis)
  • Sinking of the eyeball into the face
  • Small (constricted) pupil (the black part in the center of the eye)

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Horner syndrome?

Some of the nerve fibers that connect the eyes and brain take a circuitous route. From the brain, they go down the spinal cord. They exit the spinal cord in the chest, then go back up the neck beside the carotid artery, through the skull, and into the eye. If these nerve fibers are disrupted anywhere along their pathway, Horner syndrome results.

Horner syndrome may occur on its own or be caused by another disorder. For example, it can be caused by disorders of the head, brain, neck, or spinal cord, such as the following:

  • Lung cancer
  • Other tumors
  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck (cervical adenopathy)
  • Dissection of the aorta or carotid artery (a tear in the lining of the artery’s wall)
  • A thoracic aortic aneurysm (a bulge in the aorta’s wall)
  • Injuries

Horner syndrome may be present at birth (congenital).

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Horner syndrome?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Horner syndrome diagnosed?

In addition to a general medical examination, your doctor will conduct tests to judge the nature of your symptoms and identify a possible cause.

Tests to confirm Horner syndrome

Your doctor may be able to diagnose Horner syndrome based on your history and his or her assessment of your symptoms.

Your doctor, often an ophthalmologist, may also confirm a diagnosis by putting a drop in both eyes — either a drop that will dilate the pupil of a healthy eye or a drop that will constrict the pupil in a healthy eye. By comparing the reactions in the healthy eye with that of the suspect eye, your doctor can determine whether nerve damage is the cause of problems in the suspect eye.

Tests to identify the site of nerve damage

The prominence or nature of certain symptoms may help your doctor narrow the search for the cause of Horner syndrome. Your doctor may also conduct additional tests or order imaging tests to locate the lesion or abnormality disrupting the nerve pathway.

Your doctor may administer a type of eyedrop that will cause significant dilation of the healthy eye and little dilation of the affected eye if Horner syndrome is caused by a third-order neuron abnormality — a disruption somewhere in the neck or above.

Your doctor may order one or more of the following imaging tests to locate the site of a probable abnormality causing Horner syndrome:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a technology that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to produce detailed images
  • Computerized tomography (CT), a specialized X-ray technology
  • X-ray imaging

For children with Horner syndrome, a doctor may order blood and urine tests that are used to diagnose a tumor of the hormonal and nervous systems (neuroblastoma).

How is Horner syndrome treated?

There’s no specific treatment for Horner syndrome. Often, Horner syndrome disappears when an underlying medical condition is effectively treated.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Horner syndrome?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: September 8, 2017 | Last Modified: September 8, 2017

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