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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Horner's syndrome

Other Names for this Disease
  • Bernard-Horner Syndrome
  • Oculosympathetic Palsy
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Your Question

My son was recently diagnosed with Horner syndrome. Is it possible that he got this after having his neck and back aligned by a chiropractor? Also as a parent is there anything I should be concerned about? Do you recommend any restrictions to his playing high school sports? 

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Horner's syndrome?

Horner's syndrome consists of miosis (constriction of the pupil), ptosis (drooping of the upper eyelid), anhidrosis (absence of sweating of the face), and enophthalmos (sinking of the eyeball into the eye socket).[1][2][3]  It is caused by injury to the sympathetic nerves of the face. In rare cases, Horner's syndrome is congenital (present from birth) and associated with a lack of pigmentation of the iris (colored part of the eye).[1]
Last updated: 3/6/2012

Could a neck and spine adjustment by a chiroprator cause Horner's syndrome?

Horner's syndrome can be caused by any injury to the sympathetic nerve fibers. The sympathetic nerve fibers start in the brain (i.e., hypothalamus) and run via the upper spinal cord near the carotid artery to the face. Sympathetic nerve fiber injuries can result from neck trauma or surgery, injury to the carotid artery,  injury to the nerves running down the arm (brachial plexus), a stroke in the brainstem, tumor in the upper lobe of the lung, and cluster headaches.[1] Horner's syndrome can also be caused by the following [3][4]:

To learn more about what might have caused your son's condition we recommend that you speak with your son's healthcare provider.

Last updated: 3/6/2012

As a parent is there anything I should be concerned about? Should I limit my son's activities?

We recommend that you speak with your son's healthcare provider about the possible cause of his condition and whether or not his activities should be limited. Without knowing the underlying cause it is difficult to know how to anticipate any further complications. Unfortunately it can be very challenging to determine the cause and in many cases the cause remains unknown.  A careful neurological exam may be necessary to find the cause by determining which, if any, other parts of the nervous system are affected. Tests may include:[1]

Knowing the underlying cause may help guide treatment and help your son's doctors determine if there is any concern for additional or future complications.

Last updated: 5/20/2009

Where can I learn more about Horner's syndrome?

Information and resources related to Horner's syndrome can be accessed by clicking here.
Last updated: 5/20/2009