Opsoclonus-Myoclonus Syndrome Symptoms and Treatment

Dancing eyes dancing feet

Opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome (OMS) is an inflammatory neurological disorder. It causes significant issues with motor skills, eye movements, behavior, language disturbances, and sleep problems. It often comes on very suddenly and it can be chronic; if you have been diagnosed with OMS, some symptoms can last throughout your life. Its name describes its symptoms: opsoclonus is jiggling eye movements and myoclonus means involuntary muscle twitching. It is also known as "Kinsbourne syndrome" or "dancing-eyes-dancing-feet."

Crying toddler being examined by doctor
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Who's at Risk

An autoimmune disorder is a condition in which the body mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells. And OMS is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body produces antibodies (immune proteins) in response to either a viral infection or a tumor called a neuroblastoma.

OMS occurs when the antibodies also attack brain cells in the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. The resulting damage in the brain produces the symptoms.

While it is rare, OMS affects children more than any other age group. Neuroblastoma occurs during the toddler years, and about 4% of children who have this tumor will develop OMS. Any child who has symptoms of OMS will be tested to see if they have a tumor, even if they are sick with a viral infection.


Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to achieve neurological remission and recovery. If a child has OMS and has a tumor, the tumor is usually surgically removed. Sometimes this improves or eliminates symptoms.

Typically, these tumors are discovered in the early stages, and chemotherapy or radiation therapy is not required.

In adults, tumor removal often does not help, and the symptoms may even get worse.

Other treatments used for children and adults include:

  • Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) injections
  • Intravenous immunoglobulins, commercial preparations of antibodies from healthy blood donors
  • Imuran (azathioprine), suppresses the immune system, which slows the production of antibodies
  • Oral and intravenous steroids, such as prednisone, dexamethasone, and hydrocortisone
  • Chemotherapy such as cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine for children with neuroblastoma
  • Therapeutic apheresis, exchanging blood plasma
  • Immunoadsorption, cleaning the antibodies out of the blood has been tried in adults with OMS.

Ongoing treatments are often needed to continually manage symptoms and minimize the risk of the tumor returning.


People with the greatest chance of returning to normal after treatment are those who have the mildest symptoms.

Children may have permanent brain damage that may cause physical and mental disabilities. Other problems that come from the inflammatory brain injury can include learning and behavior problems, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These may need to be managed as well.

Those with more severe symptoms may have relief of muscle twitching (myoclonus) but are more likely to continue to have difficulty with coordination.


Opsoclonus-Myoclonus Syndrome is very rare. It has been estimated to affect between one in 1 million to one in 10 million people. And it is estimated that approximately one to 300 people in the U.S. have OMS. It is typically seen in children, but it can affect adults as well. It occurs slightly more often in girls than in boys and is usually diagnosed between 6 months to two years of age.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mizia-Malarz A, Stolpa W, Sobol-Milejska G. The treatment of opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome secondary to neuroblastic tumours-single-centre experience and literature review. Medicina (Kaunas). 2020 Aug 14;56(8):412. doi:10.3390/medicina56080412

  2. Patel A, Fischer C, Lin YC, Basu EM, Kushner BH, De Braganca K, Khakoo Y. Treatment and revaccination of children with paraneoplastic opsoclonus-myoclonus-ataxia syndrome and neuroblastoma: The Memorial Sloan Kettering experience. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2020 Aug;67(8):e28319. doi:10.1002/pbc.28319

  3. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome.

  4. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome.

Additional Reading
  • Pranzatelli, M. "Opsoclonus-Myoclonus Syndrome". National Organization for Rare Disorders, 2016.

  • Pranzatelli, M. "Vital Signs: Friendly Fire." Discover, 2000.

By Mary Kugler, RN
Mary Kugler, RN, is a pediatric nurse whose specialty is caring for children with long-term or severe medical problems.