Progressive outer retinal necrosis in immunocompetent patients treated initially for optic neuropathy with systemic corticosteroids

Am J Ophthalmol. 2003 Apr;135(4):551-3. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(02)01978-5.


Purpose: To report two cases of progressive outer retinal necrosis occurring in immunocompetent individuals after treatment with corticosteroids for presumed optic neuropathy.

Design: Observational case report.

Setting: University-based tertiary eye hospital.

Methods: Retrospective review of existing clinical records.

Results: Two patients were treated empirically with systemic corticosteroids for suspected inflammatory papillopathy. Subsequently, both were diagnosed with necrotizing herpetic retinitis with features of progressive outer retinal necrosis. Anterior chamber paracentesis confirmed varicella-zoster infection. Both patients were human immunodeficiency virus negative; one patient with rheumatoid arthritis was taking etanercept. Both became completely blind in one eye despite intensive treatment with antiviral medication intravenously and intravitreally.

Conclusions: Progressive outer retinal necrosis is not confined to patients with underlying severe immunodeficiency, such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Initial treatment of acute, unexplained vision loss with systemic corticosteroids may lead to catastrophic visual loss in patients with evolving necrotizing herpetic retinopathy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Aqueous Humor / virology
  • Blindness / etiology
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Foscarnet / therapeutic use
  • Ganciclovir / therapeutic use
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / diagnosis
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / drug therapy
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / etiology*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis
  • Optic Neuritis / diagnosis
  • Optic Neuritis / drug therapy*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use*
  • Pupil Disorders / diagnosis
  • Pupil Disorders / drug therapy
  • Retinal Necrosis Syndrome, Acute / diagnosis
  • Retinal Necrosis Syndrome, Acute / drug therapy
  • Retinal Necrosis Syndrome, Acute / etiology*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Foscarnet
  • Ganciclovir
  • Prednisone
  • Acyclovir