Horner syndrome

Horner syndrome is a combination of signs and symptoms caused by the disruption of a nerve pathway from the brain to the face and eye on one side of the body.

Typically, Horner syndrome results in a decreased pupil size, a drooping eyelid and decreased sweating on the affected side of your face.

Horner syndrome is the result of another medical problem, such as a stroke, tumor or spinal cord injury. In some cases, no underlying cause can be found. There's no specific treatment for Horner syndrome, but treatment for the underlying cause may restore normal nerve function.

Horner syndrome is also known as Horner-Bernard syndrome or oculosympathetic palsy.

Symptoms Causes

Horner syndrome usually affects only one side of the face. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • A persistently small pupil (miosis)
  • A notable difference in pupil size between the two eyes (anisocoria)
  • Little or delayed opening (dilation) of the affected pupil in dim light
  • Drooping of the upper eyelid (ptosis)
  • Slight elevation of the lower lid, sometimes called upside-down ptosis
  • Little or no sweating (anhidrosis) either on the entire side of the face or an isolated patch of skin on the affected side

Signs and symptoms, particularly ptosis and anhidrosis, may be subtle and difficult to detect.


Additional signs and symptoms in children with Horner syndrome may include:

  • Lighter iris color in the affected eye of a child under the age of 1
  • Lack of redness (flushing) on the affected side of the face that would normally appear from heat, physical exertion or emotional reactions

When to see a doctor

A number of factors, some more serious than others, can cause Horner syndrome. It is important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis.

Get emergency care if signs or symptoms associated with Horner syndrome appear suddenly, appear after a traumatic injury, or are accompanied by other signs or symptoms, such as:

  • Impaired vision
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness or lack of muscle control
  • Severe, sudden headache or neck pain

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