Foveal damage in habitual poppers users

Arch Ophthalmol. 2011 Jun;129(6):703-8. doi: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2011.6. Epub 2011 Feb 14.


Objective: To describe foveal damage in habitual use of poppers, a popular recreational drug.

Methods: Retrospective observational case series. Six patients with bilateral vision loss after chronic popper inhalation were seen in 4 university-based ophthalmology departments. Symptoms, medical history, ophthalmic examination, and functional and morphological tests are described.

Results: All patients experienced progressive bilateral vision loss, with central photopsia in 2 cases. Initial visual acuities ranged from 20/50 to 20/25. In all patients, a bilateral yellow foveal spot was present that, by optical coherence tomography, was associated with disruption of the outer segments of foveal cones. Functional and anatomical damage was restricted to the fovea. The poppers involved were identified as isopropyl nitrite in 3 cases. Four patients showed anatomical and/or functional improvement over several months after discontinuing popper inhalation.

Conclusions: Repeated inhalation of poppers may be associated with prolonged bilateral vision loss due to the disruption of foveal cone outer segments. Retinal damage may progressively improve following drug discontinuation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amyl Nitrite / adverse effects*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fovea Centralis / drug effects*
  • Fovea Centralis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods*
  • Vision, Low / chemically induced*
  • Vision, Low / pathology
  • Vision, Low / physiopathology
  • Visual Acuity / drug effects


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Amyl Nitrite