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Cranial mononeuropathy VI



Cranial mononeuropathy VI is a nerve disorder that causes people to see two of the same image (double vision).

Alternative Names

Abducens palsy; Lateral rectus palsy


Cranial mononeuropathy VI is damage to the sixth cranial (skull) nerve. This nerve, also called the abducens nerve, helps control eye movement.

Disorders of this nerve can occur with:

  • Brain aneurysms
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Increased pressure in the skull (intracranial pressure)
  • Infections (such as meningitis or sinusitis)
  • Tissue damage from loss of blood flow (infarction)
  • Trauma (caused by head injury or accidentally during surgery)
  • Tumors

In some people, there is no obvious cause.

Because there are common nerve pathways through the skull, the disorder may affect other cranial nerves (such as the third or fourth cranial nerve).


Symptoms may include:

  • Double vision when looking to one side (people who are blind in one eye cannot have double vision)
  • Headaches
  • Pain
Signs and tests

Tests typically show that one eye has trouble looking to the side, while the other eye moves normally. An examination shows the eyes do not line up -- either at rest, or when looking in the direction of the weak eye.

Your health care provider will do a complete examination to determine the possible effect on other parts of the nervous system. Depending on the suspected cause, you may need:

You may need to be referred to a doctor who specializes in visual problems related to the nervous system (neuro-ophthalmologist).

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Treating the cause may improve the condition. Even if the cause is never found, the condition may improve.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have double vision.


Complications may include permanent vision changes.


If the health care provider finds a cause, medications called corticosteroids can reduce swelling and relieve pressure on the nerve. Sometimes, the condition may disappear without treatment. People with diabetes may benefit from close control of blood sugar levels.

Until the nerve heals, wearing an eye patch may relieve double vision.


There is no way to prevent this condition. However, people with diabetes may reduce the risk by controlling their blood sugar.

Review Date: 2/13/2008
Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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