Visual and neurologic sequelae of methanol poisoning in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Med J. 2015 May;36(5):568-74. doi: 10.15537/smj.2015.5.11142.


Objectives: To present the visual sequelae of methanol poisoning and to emphasize the characteristics of methanol exposure in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Methods: A retrospective case series was carried out on 50 sequential patients with methanol poisoning seen at the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital and King Saud University Hospitals in Riyadh, KSA between 2008 and 2014. All patients were examined by a neuro-ophthalmologist at least one month after methanol intoxication.

Results: All 50 patients were young or middle-aged males. All admitted to drinking unbranded alcohol within 2-3 days before profound or relatively profound, painless, bilateral visual loss. Mean visual acuity in this group was hand motions (logMAR 2.82; range 0.1 - 5.0) with some eye to eye variability within individuals. Worse visual acuity was correlated with advancing age (Pearson correlation: oculus dextrus [right eye] - 0.37, p=0.008; oculus sinister [left eye] - 0.36, p=0.011). All patients had optic atrophy bilaterally, and all tested patients had visual field defects. Tremors with or without rigidity were present in 12 patients, and 11 of 30 patients who had neuroimaging performed had evidence of putaminal necrosis.

Conclusion: Methanol intoxication causes visual loss within 12-48 hours due to relatively severe, painless, bilateral optic nerve damage that may be somewhat variable between eyes, and is generally worse with advancing age. The coincidence of bilateral optic nerve damage and bilateral putaminal necrosis in a young or middle-aged male is very suspicious for methanol-induced damage.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methanol / poisoning*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Rigidity / chemically induced
  • Necrosis / chemically induced
  • Optic Atrophy / chemically induced
  • Putamen / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Tremor / chemically induced
  • Vision Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Visual Acuity / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Methanol