Viral infection is a rare cause of painful ophthalmoplegia. We report on a 67-year-old patient who developed painful double vision after a vesicular skin rash on the left forehead. MRI disclosed simultaneous inflammatory lesions in all extraocular muscles, the second and third cranial nerve, as well as pathological signal intensity along the spinal trigeminal tract and nucleus within the medulla oblongata and the pons. Cerebrospinal fluid and serum tests for varicella zoster were positive. The patient was treated effectively with intravenous acyclovir and methylprednisolone. Simultaneous lesions in various neighbouring neural structures may be characteristic for the highly neurotropic behaviour of the herpesviridae and should be considered as a cause of painful ophthalmoplegia that can be depicted by appropriate imaging.
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