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How Does Horner’s Syndrome Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Horner Syndrome also is known as Horner-Bernard syndrome is a condition that arises when there is a disruption in the nerve pathway connecting the brain with face and eyes. This usually occurs on one side of the body. Horner syndrome affects the size of the pupil, as the size of the pupil starts to decrease significantly. Also, it causes drooping eyelid and the sweat glands present on the affected area of the face become weak causing a decrease in the sweating.

How Does Horner’s Syndrome Affect The Body?

Horner syndrome is a result of interruption caused in the pathway of the nervous system. This interruption affects different vital functions of the body such as irregular heart rates, abnormal size of the pupil, fluctuations of blood pressure, etc. All these things make it very difficult to adjust to the changing condition of the environment.

The interrupted nerve pathway can be categorized into three categories of nerve cells also known as neurons. The three categories are first-order neuron, second-order neuron, and the third-order neuron.

First Order Neurons– The pathway of this neuron starts from the hypothalamus present at the base of the brain and then passes via brain stem and further extends to the spinal cord (upper portion). Any disorder in this region can disrupt the nerve functioning that can lead to Horner syndrome, which includes:

Second-Order Neurons – The pathway of this neuron passes from the spinal columns and covers the upper portion of the chest and also the sides of the neck. The varying cause of nerve damage in this area of the body includes the following:

  • Any sort of surgery in the chest cavity
  • Pulmonary/Lung cancer
  • Schwannoma
  • Damage the blood vessels passing from that area and connecting with the heart.
  • Severe injury

Third Order Neurons–The pathway of this neuron covers both the sides of the neck and move towards the facial skin and other muscles controlling the movement of iris and eyelids. Nerve damage of this area of the body can be a result of the following:

  • Any injury causing damage to the artery covering either side of the neck
  • Injury in the jugular vein also covering either side of the neck
  • Migraines (severe headache)
  • Presence of cyst/tumor or infection at the base of the head skull
  • Cluster headaches (a condition in which severe headache occurs in a cylindrical pattern).(1)

What Triggers Horner’s Syndrome?

Some of the commonly seen symptoms of Horner syndrome in children are as follows:

  • Serious injury in the shoulder or neck region at the time delivery
  • Birth defect in the aorta present in the heart
  • Neuroblastoma (Tumor or cyst present in the nervous system or the hormones)

The above discussion clearly explains the fact that Horner syndrome is not a very rare disease and various causes are triggering this problem.

Horner syndrome can also be an outcome of other serious health problems such as a tumor, deep injury in the spinal cord or heart attack/stroke. In some rare cases, medical experts fail to identify any specific cause leading to this problem. To date, no sure short treatment has been encountered for curing Horner syndrome but experts suggest that treatment of the specific cause can be of great help in restoring the normal nerve functioning.

Horner’s Syndrome Symptoms

This type of syndrome mainly affects one side of the face. Some of the common symptoms are as follows:

  • Miosis – It’s a condition in which the size of the pupil continues to decrease.
  • Ptosis – Drooping of eyelids
  • Eyes start to look sunken
  • Anisocoria – Drastic difference can be spotted in the size of pupil between the two eyes
  • Little or delayed opening (dilation) of the affected pupil in dim light
  • Lower eyelids show some elevation. This condition is known as upside-down ptosis
  • Minimalistic or no sweating on the affected side of the face causing dullness and dryness.(2)


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 2, 2020

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