Beware, dengue can depart its sufferer blind

MUMBAI: , in rare instances, has been known to cause . A 23-year-old accountant from the western suburbs suffered from this relatively uncommon complication in November last year and is yet to regain her vision completely after four months and three surgeries.
The woman, who didn’t wish to be identified, recently resumed work after regaining vision of the right eye. Doctors at , where she was first presented with complete blindness, said there was still time for the complete recovery of her left eye, in which she has about 10% vision.

Doctors said the woman within a span of 24 hours. “It happened four to five days after the onset of fever. She was being treated for dengue in a local nursing home. She had rashes all over her body, one of the classic signs of the disease that confirmed the diagnosis further,” said retina surgeon Dr Janhvi Mehta, vitreoretinal surgeon at Jaslok. Even as the patient was undergoing treatment, she developed complete opacity (cataract) of the lens in both eyes.

Dr Mehta said her condition, defined as dengue retinopathy, was a result of the body’s aggressive response to eliminate the virus. “The body’s reaction towards the viral infection damaged the retinas in this patient’s case,” she said. Eye specialists in the city say that every year only a handful of dengue cases record complications involving the eye.

Dr S Nataraj from Aditya Jyot Hospital said that in the last 3-5 years, the eye hospital has treated not more than ten cases. “When the dengue virus goes in the system and starts widely circulating, it could at times settle in the eye, as it could in other organs or tissues. It causes inflammation of retina and blood vessels or bleeding in the retina. All these complications could lead to a loss of vision. The good news is that the eyesight could be recovered in most cases with timely intervention,” he said.

Dr Mehta said the patient had to undergo cataract surgery followed by a vitrectomy (removal of vitreous gel that fills the eye cavity to provide better access to the retina) and may need a third one for complete recovery. Dengue wreaked havoc last year with 17 deaths and nearly 13,000 suspected cases in Mumbai.

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