Acquired color vision loss and a possible mechanism of ganglion cell death in glaucoma

Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2000:98:331-63.


Purpose: First, to study the cellular mechanisms of acquired color vision loss in retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy. Second, to learn why, in glaucoma, the type of color vision deficit that is observed is more characteristic of a retinal injury than it is of an optic neuropathy. Third, to test a hypothesis of photoreceptor-induced, ganglion cell death in glaucoma.

Methods: Various histologic techniques were employed to distinguish the L/M-cones (long/medium wavelength-sensitive cones, or red/green sensitive cones) from the S-cones (short wavelength-sensitive cones, or blue sensitive cones) in humans and monkeys with retinal detachment, humans with diabetic retinopathy, and both humans and monkeys with glaucoma. To test if the photoreceptors were contributing to ganglion cell death, laser photocoagulation was used in a experimental model of glaucoma to focally eliminate the photoreceptors. As a control, optic nerve transection was done following retinal laser photocoagulation in one animal.

Results: Selective and widespread loss of the S-cones was found in retinal detachment as well as diabetic retinopathy. By contrast, in human as well as experimental glaucoma, marked swelling of the L/M-cones was the predominant histopathologic feature. Retinal laser photocoagulation followed by experimental glaucoma resulted in selective protection of ganglion cells overlying the laser spots. This was not seen with retinal laser photocoagulation by optic nerve transection.

Conclusions: In retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy, acquired tritan-like color vision loss could be caused, or contributed to, by selective loss of the S-cones. Both L- and M-cones are affected in glaucoma, which is also consistent with a tritan-like deficit. Although not a therapeutic option, protection of ganglion cells by retinal laser in experimental glaucoma is consistent with an hypothesis of anterograde, photoreceptor-induced, ganglion cell death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Child
  • Color Vision Defects / etiology*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / complications
  • Female
  • Glaucoma / complications*
  • Glaucoma / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Macula Lutea / pathology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Middle Aged
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / radiation effects
  • Retina / diagnostic imaging
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / pathology
  • Retinal Detachment / complications
  • Retinal Detachment / diagnostic imaging
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography