How is trigeminal nerve sensory function tested in third cranial nerve palsy (oculomotor cranial nerve palsy)?

Updated: Oct 08, 2018
  • Author: James Goodwin, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew G Lee, MD  more...
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Trigeminal nerve sensory function can be tested with the aid of a cotton-tipped applicator. Tease a few fibers of the cotton into a pointed bundle by twirling it between the thumb and the forefinger after a small tuft of cotton is pulled free of the tip.

This wisp of cotton can be touched to the cornea near the limbus to test the corneal reflex. It should elicit a blink response that is symmetric between the sides.

Failure to blink may indicate reduced sensory function in the first division of the trigeminal nerve on the side of decreased response. The cotton wisp can be dragged lightly across the skin in various locations. With the eyes closed, the patient is asked to indicate when it is felt.

Asymmetry of light touch between sides should be sought. The wooden stick, when broken, can serve as a "pinprick" tester. Usually, the break is jagged and there is a pointed end that can be used like a pin to test for pain sensation. Lightly tap the point on the skin at various points. The patient should compare the "sharpness" of the feeling at homologous points on the right and left sides of the face.

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