What causes 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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Answer

Any focally destructive lesion along the course of the third cranial nerve can cause oculomotor nerve palsy or dysfunction. A painful pupil-involved oculomotor nerve palsy may result from a life-threatening intracranial aneurysm. See the table below.

Table 1. Etiology of Isolated Third Nerve Palsy [16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] (Open Table in a new window)

Cause

Percentage of overall cases (%)

Head trauma

13

Neoplasm

11

Ischemic

25

Aneurysm

17

Other

14

Idiopathic

20


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