Northside Health Library

Extraocular muscle function testing


Extraocular muscle function testing is an examination of the function of the eye muscles. A doctor observes the movement of the eyes in six specific directions.

Alternative Names

EOM; Extraocular movement; Ocular motility examination

How the Test is Performed

You are asked to sit or stand with your head erect and a forward gaze. Your health care provider will hold a pen or other object 12 inches in front of your face. He or she will then move the object in several directions and ask you to follow it with your eyes, without moving your head.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is necessary for this test.

How the Test Will Feel

The test involves only normal movement of the eyes.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is performed to evaluate any weakness or other problem in the extraocular muscles, which may result in double vision or rapid, uncontrolled eye movements.

Normal Results

Normal movement of the eyes in all directions.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Eye movement disorders may be due to abnormalities of the muscles themselves or problems in the sections of the brain that control these muscles. Your doctor will discuss any abnormalities identified.


There are no risks associated with this test.


Slight nystagmus that stops quickly is normal with an extreme sideways gaze.


Baloh RW. Neuro-ophthalmology. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 450.

Lavin PJM. Eye movement disorders: diplopia, nystagmus, and other ocular oscillations. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Bradley: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 16.

Review Date: 2/16/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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