Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Ever heard of opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome? It’s a rare neurological disorder that can turn young people’s lives upside down. Imagine suddenly losing control over your movements, feeling like your body’s playing tricks on you, as a person scans their back. This condition affects both young people and adults, making everyday tasks a challenge.

We’ll dive into what causes it in young people, how it’s diagnosed, and the treatment options available. Whether you’re dealing with this syndrome or just curious about it, understanding more can make a big difference. Ready to get informed? Let’s break it down together.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding OMS: Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS) is a rare neurological disorder characterized by rapid, involuntary eye movements and muscle jerks.
  • Recognizing Symptoms: Early identification of symptoms like erratic eye movements, muscle spasms, and balance issues can lead to quicker diagnosis and treatment.
  • Investigating Causes: OMS can be triggered by infections, tumors, or autoimmune responses, making it crucial to explore underlying causes for effective management.
  • Diagnosis Process: Accurate diagnosis involves comprehensive neurological exams, imaging tests, and sometimes, cerebrospinal fluid analysis.
  • Treatment Options: Treatment often includes immunotherapy, corticosteroids, and sometimes chemotherapy, tailored to individual patient needs.
  • Support Systems: Ongoing supportive care, including physical therapy and occupational therapy, is essential for improving quality of life for OMS patients.

What is OMS


Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS) is a rare neurological disorder. It causes unusual eye movements and muscle spasms. The eye movements are rapid and uncontrolled. Muscle spasms can be jerky and sudden.


OMS has two nicknames. One is Dancing Eyes-Dancing Feet Syndrome. This name shows how the eyes and feet move uncontrollably. The other nickname is Kinsbourne syndrome. It honors Dr. Kinsbourne, who first described it in 1962.

Impact on Eyes

OMS affects the eyes significantly. People with OMS have rapid, back-and-forth eye movements. These movements are called opsoclonus. They make it hard to focus on objects.

Impact on Muscles

Muscle spasms in OMS are called myoclonus. These spasms can affect any part of the body. They often cause jerky and unpredictable movements.

Affects All Ages

OMS can affect people of all ages. However, its causes differ between children and adults.

Causes in Children

In children, OMS often follows a viral infection or a tumor called neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells.

Causes in Adults

For adults, OMS may be linked to autoimmune diseases or cancer like small cell lung cancer. Sometimes, the cause remains unknown.

Identifying Symptoms


Opsoclonus is a key symptom of OMS. It involves rapid, unpredictable eye movements. These movements are often described as “dancing eyes.” Patients may struggle to focus their vision. This can lead to blurred vision and discomfort.


Myoclonus refers to sudden, involuntary muscle jerks. These jerks can affect any part of the body. They often occur in the arms and legs. The jerks can be mild or severe, sometimes causing falls.


Ataxia is another primary symptom. It causes coordination problems and an unsteady gait. People with ataxia may appear clumsy or off-balance. Walking becomes difficult, increasing the risk of falls.

Difficulty Speaking

Patients with OMS often have trouble speaking. Speech may become slurred or slow. Some might find it hard to form words correctly. This symptom affects daily communication and social interactions.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes are common in OMS. Children may become irritable or aggressive. Adults might experience mood swings or depression. These changes can impact relationships and quality of life.

Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances are also part of the symptom spectrum. Many patients have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Poor sleep can worsen other symptoms like irritability and fatigue.

Unsteady Gait

An unsteady gait is a noticeable sign of OMS. Patients often walk with a wide stance for balance. They may stumble or fall frequently due to poor coordination.


Hypotonia, or low muscle tone, is another important symptom to watch for. Muscles feel floppy and weak, making movement difficult. Infants with hypotonia might have delayed motor skills development.

Exploring Causes

Neuroblastoma in Children

In children, opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome (OMS) often stems from a neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells. It usually occurs in the adrenal glands but can also form in nerve tissues along the spine. When a child has neuroblastoma, it can trigger an autoimmune response.

The immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system instead of just targeting the tumor cells. This inappropriate attack causes symptoms like rapid eye movements and muscle jerks seen in OMS.

Cancer-Linked Triggers in Adults

For adults, OMS is sometimes linked to underlying cancers. Small cell lung cancer and breast cancer are common culprits. These cancers can cause the immune system to become overactive and attack healthy nerve cells. The result is the same as in children: abnormal eye movements and muscle jerks.

Adults may also develop OMS after certain infections. Post-infectious immune responses can lead to similar symptoms. Infections like Epstein-Barr virus or Coxsackievirus have been associated with OMS.

Autoimmune Response Mechanism

While the exact cause of OMS can vary between individuals, there is a common thread. The immune system’s inappropriate attack on the nervous system leads to the disorder. Normally, the immune system protects against harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses.

However, in OMS, it mistakenly targets parts of its own body, particularly nerve cells. This misdirected attack results in inflammation and damage to these cells.

Varied Triggers Across Age Groups

The triggers for OMS differ between children and adults due to their varying health conditions and exposures:

  • Children: Typically develop OMS due to neuroblastomas.
  • Adults: Often experience OMS because of cancers or post-infectious responses.

This age-related variation shows how complex and multifaceted the disorder’s causes can be.

Examples of Real-Life Cases

Real-life examples highlight these differences clearly:

  1. A 3-year-old girl diagnosed with neuroblastoma developed rapid eye movements and muscle jerks.
  2. A 45-year-old man with small cell lung cancer later exhibited symptoms of OMS.
  3. After recovering from a viral infection, a 30-year-old woman began experiencing involuntary muscle twitches characteristic of OMS.

These cases illustrate how different triggers lead to similar symptoms across age groups.

Diagnosis Steps

Symptom Criteria

Doctors look for specific symptoms to diagnose Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS). These include rapid, involuntary eye movements called opsoclonus. Patients also show sudden muscle jerks known as myoclonus. Other symptoms might involve balance issues and irritability.

Antibody Detection

Blood exams play a crucial role in diagnosing OMS. They help identify antibodies linked to the condition. Anti-Ri and anti-Hu antibodies are often found in patients with OMS. Detecting these antibodies supports the diagnosis.

Comprehensive Assessments

Given its rarity, diagnosing OMS requires thorough assessments. Doctors must rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. This includes performing MRI scans to check for brain abnormalities. Lumbar punctures may also be done to examine cerebrospinal fluid.

Differential Diagnosis

A differential diagnosis is essential for confirming OMS. Doctors compare symptoms with other neurological disorders. Conditions like multiple sclerosis or infectious encephalitis need exclusion first.

Clinical Evaluations

Clinical evaluations help in understanding the extent of OMS. Neurologists assess motor skills and reflexes. They also evaluate cognitive functions and emotional health.

Genetic Testing

In some cases, genetic testing can provide insights into OMS origins. It helps identify any hereditary factors contributing to the syndrome.

Treatment Options

Corticosteroids or ACTH

Corticosteroids and ACTH are often the first treatments for opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome (OMS). These medications help manage symptoms by reducing inflammation. Patients typically receive corticosteroids like prednisone. This treatment can start with a high dose, which is then slowly reduced.

ACTH, or adrenocorticotropic hormone, is another option. It works by stimulating the adrenal glands to produce natural steroids. This can help control the immune response. Both treatments aim to reduce the severity of symptoms quickly.

Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy plays a crucial role in treating OMS. IVIG involves infusing antibodies from healthy donors into the patient’s bloodstream. This helps modulate the immune system.

IVIG is especially useful for patients who do not respond well to corticosteroids or ACTH. The therapy can reduce abnormal movements and improve coordination. Patients usually receive IVIG in cycles, which might be repeated based on their response.

Additional Medications

Other medications can also help manage OMS symptoms. Immunosuppressants like rituximab may be used if first-line treatments are not effective. These drugs work by further dampening the immune system’s activity.

Anticonvulsants such as valproate or levetiracetam might be prescribed to control muscle jerks and spasms. Each patient’s treatment plan is tailored to their specific needs and responses to medication.

Supportive Care Strategies

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is essential for patients with opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome (OMS). It helps improve coordination and muscle strength. Patients often face motor symptoms such as tremors and jerky movements. These can make daily activities challenging.

Therapists design specific exercises for each patient. They focus on balance, flexibility, and strength. Regular sessions can lead to gradual improvements. Over time, patients may regain some control over their movements.

Psychological Support

Patients with OMS often experience behavioral changes. These can include mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. Psychological support or counseling can help manage these challenges.

Counselors work with both patients and families. They provide coping strategies for emotional difficulties. Support groups can also be beneficial. Sharing experiences with others facing similar issues can offer comfort and understanding.

Regular Follow-Ups

Frequent follow-ups with healthcare providers are crucial. These visits help adjust treatment plans as needed. Monitoring progress ensures that the care provided is effective.

Doctors assess the patient’s response to treatments during these visits. They may recommend changes in medication or therapy based on observations. Regular check-ups also allow for early detection of any new symptoms or complications.

Nutritional Guidance

A balanced diet supports overall health in OMS patients. Proper nutrition can enhance energy levels and immune function. Dietitians create personalized meal plans to meet individual needs.

e patients might have difficulty eating due to motor symptoms. In such cases, soft foods or nutritional supplements might be necessary. Ensuring adequate hydration is equally important.

Medication Management

Managing medications is a key part of supportive care for OMS. Patients often take multiple drugs to control symptoms like spasms and seizures. Keeping track of these medications requires careful attention.

Healthcare providers guide families on proper dosages and schedules. They monitor for side effects and interactions between drugs. Adjustments are made based on the patient’s response to treatment.

Educational Support

Children with OMS may struggle academically due to cognitive impairments. Schools should offer special education services tailored to their needs.

Teachers work closely with parents and healthcare providers to create an effective learning environment. Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) ensure that each child receives appropriate support in school settings.

Prognosis Insights

Variable Outcomes

Patients with opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome (OMS) experience different outcomes. Some recover fully, resuming normal activities. Others face persistent symptoms or relapses. Symptoms can fluctuate, making it hard to predict long-term effects.

Children often show better recovery rates than adults. However, even in children, the prognosis varies widely. Some may develop learning difficulties or behavioral issues.

Importance of Early Treatment

Early and aggressive treatment is crucial for OMS patients. Timely intervention improves long-term outcomes significantly. Corticosteroids and immunotherapy are common treatments. These therapies help control symptoms and reduce inflammation.

Delaying treatment can lead to worse outcomes. The longer the delay, the higher the risk of permanent neurological damage. Therefore, prompt diagnosis and immediate treatment are essential.

Ongoing Research

Ongoing research is shedding light on OMS. Scientists are exploring new treatments and management strategies. Clinical trials test novel therapies, aiming to improve patient outcomes.

Research focuses on understanding the underlying causes of OMS better. Genetic studies are revealing potential triggers and risk factors. This knowledge helps develop targeted therapies.

Hope for Future Advancements

Continuous advancements in medical science offer hope for OMS patients. New treatments are being developed and tested regularly. These innovations aim to provide more effective symptom control and improved quality of life.

Current research also explores long-term management strategies. These approaches focus on maintaining symptom control over time, reducing relapse rates, and improving overall prognosis.

Supportive Care Integration

Supportive care remains vital alongside medical treatments. Physical therapy helps manage motor symptoms effectively. Speech therapy addresses communication difficulties resulting from OMS.

Psychological support is equally important for both patients and families. Counseling services help cope with the emotional impact of chronic illness, offering a holistic approach to care.

Research Advances

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are crucial for understanding Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS). They help researchers find new treatments. Participation in these trials can lead to better therapies. It also provides hope for those affected by OMS.

Parents of children with OMS should consider these trials. They offer access to the latest treatments. This can be especially important when standard treatments don’t work well.

Mechanisms of OMS

Recent studies have focused on the underlying mechanisms of OMS. Researchers found that the immune system plays a significant role. In many cases, antibodies attack brain cells. This causes the symptoms seen in people with OMS.

Advanced imaging techniques like MRI scans help identify these changes. These scans show how the brain is affected over time. Understanding these mechanisms can lead to targeted treatments.

New Therapeutic Approaches

New therapeutic approaches are emerging for OMS patients. One promising treatment involves immunotherapy. This targets the immune system directly, reducing its harmful effects on the brain.

Another approach is using medications that calm the nervous system. These drugs help control symptoms like tremors and jerks. Researchers continue to explore other options, including gene therapy.

Impact on Young People

OMS often affects young people, particularly children under five years old. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital for improving outcomes. Research shows that starting treatment early can reduce long-term damage.

Children with OMS face unique challenges in their development. Support from healthcare providers and families is essential. New research aims to create therapies tailored specifically for young patients.

Final Remarks

Living with opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome (OMS) can be a rollercoaster, but understanding it is half the battle. You’ve got the tools now to recognize symptoms, seek proper diagnosis, and explore treatment options. The road might be bumpy, but you’re not alone. Supportive care and ongoing research offer hope and direction.

Don’t just stop here—take action. Reach out to healthcare professionals, join support groups, and stay updated on the latest research. Your journey with OMS is unique, but with knowledge and community, you can navigate it more confidently. Stay proactive and keep pushing forward!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS)?

OMS is a rare neurological disorder. It affects both children and adults. Symptoms include rapid eye movements, muscle jerks, and balance issues.

How can I identify the symptoms of OMS?

Look for rapid, uncontrolled eye movements and sudden muscle jerks. Balance problems and irritability are also common signs.

What causes OMS?

The exact cause isn’t always clear. It can be linked to infections or tumors. Sometimes, the immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system.

How is OMS diagnosed?

Doctors use a combination of medical history, physical exams, and tests like MRIs or spinal taps to diagnose OMS.

What treatments are available for OMS?

Treatment often involves immunotherapy to calm the immune system. Steroids, IVIG, and chemotherapy are common options.

Can supportive care help with OMS?

Absolutely! Physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy can improve quality of life for those with OMS.

What’s the prognosis for someone with OMS?

Prognosis varies. Some recover fully; others may have lingering symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes.