High prevalence of blindness and ocular complications in leprosy patients

June 13, 2011

Data presented in an advance on-line publication of the journal Eye has shown a high occurrence of ocular conditions in UK leprosy patients.

Data presented in an advance on-line publication of the journal Eye has shown a high occurrence of ocular conditions in UK leprosy patients.

Dr A. Malik et al., Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK, conducted an observational, prospective study on 126 consecutive leprosy patients. The participants were examined during their ophthalmic visits.

Of the 126 patients, 18 presented with blindness in one eye and 5 patients were blind in both eyes. The findings demonstrated that 96 patients had a visual acuity of 6/18, 28 patients had a leprosy complication that severely affects sight and 65 patients had a form of ocular complication such as lagophthalmos, severe corneal or iris disease.

The most frequent ocular complications were impaired lid closure, impaired corneal sensation, mild corneal opacity, cataract and iris atrophy. Increasing age was linked to impaired lid closure and vision less than 6/18 was linked to impaired corneal sensation.

The results revealed that one in five leprosy patients suffered from some form of ocular complication or blindness. The study advises health professionals to increase awareness on the implications of leprosy and the risk of sight-threatening ocular complications.