Saturday, February 1, 2014

Seeing stars

After an on-the-job accident, a 42-year-old male electrician developed star-shaped cataracts in his eyes. Unfortunately, the 14,000-volt jolt of electricity which caused the strange formations also took away most of his sight. Within 4 weeks, his vision had decreased to the perception of hand motions. He was treated by clinical ophthalmologist Bobby S. Korn of the University of California, San Diego, who photographed the "bilateral stellate anterior subcapsular opacities of the lens" (IMAGES ABOVE, TOP) and "scattered cotton-wool spots and bilateral optic-nerve pallor" (IMAGES ABOVE, BOTTOM). Dr. Korn removed the cataracts and implanted an intraocular lens 4 months after injury and repaired a detached retina in the left eye 2 years later. Now, 10 years after the electrocution, the patient's visual acuity was better in the right eye than the left and both optic nerves had atrophied. Although legally blind, the California man can get around independently on public transportation and read with the use of low-vision aids. Dr. Korn explains, "The optic nerve is similar to any wire that conducts electricity. In this case, the extreme current and voltage that passed through this important natural wire caused damage to the optic nerve itself."

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