Relapsing Painful Ophthalmoplegic Neuropathy: No longer a “Migraine,” but Still a Headache

Stacy V. Smith, Nathaniel M. Schuster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Recurrent painful ophthalmoplegic neuropathy (RPON), formerly known as ophthalmoplegic migraine, is an uncommon disorder with repeated episodes of ocular cranial nerve neuropathy associated with ipsilateral headache. This review discusses the clinical presentation, current understanding of the pathophysiology, key differential diagnoses, and evaluation and treatment of RPON. Recent Findings: The literature is limited due to the rarity of the disorder. Recent case reports and series continue to suggest the age of first attack is most often during childhood or adolescence as well as a female predominance. Multiple recent case reports and series demonstrate focal enhancement of the affected cranial nerve, as the nerve root exits the brainstem. This finding contributed to the current classification of the disorder as a neuropathy, with the present understanding that it is due to a relapsing-remitting inflammatory or demyelinating process. The link to migraine remains a cause of disagreement in the literature. Summary: RPON is a complex disorder with features of inflammatory neuropathy and an unclear association with migraine. Regardless, the overall prognosis is good for individual episodes, but permanent nerve damage may accumulate with repeated attacks. A better understanding of the pathogenesis is needed to clarify whether it truly represents a single disorder and to guide its treatment. Until that time, a combined approach with acute and preventive therapies can mitigate acute symptoms as well as attempt to limit recurrence of this disabling syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number50
JournalCurrent Pain and Headache Reports
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Cranial neuropathy
  • Demyelinating neuropathy
  • External ophthalmoplegia
  • Ophthalmoplegic migraine
  • Relapsing neuropathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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