Background: Patients with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) have a progressive decrease of their visual acuity which can deteriorate to <0.1. Some patients can have a partial recovery of their vision in one or both eyes. One prognostic factor associated with a recovery of vision is an early-age onset. The purpose of this study was to determine other clinical factors that are predictive of a good visual recovery.
Methods: Sixty-one Japanese LHON patients, with the 11,778 mutation and a mean age of 23.1 ± 12.1 years at the onset, were studied. All patients were initially examined at an acute stage of LHON and were followed for 3 to 10 years. At 1 year after the onset, the lowest visual acuity was <0.1 in all eyes. We studied the following parameters of patients with/without a final visual acuity of ≥ 0.2: sex; heavy consumption of cigarettes and alcohol; taking idebenone; mean age at onset; mean lowest visual acuity; and distribution of the lowest and the final visual acuity.
Results: Fifteen (24.6%) of the 61 patients or 25 (20.5%) of the 122 eyes had a recovery of their visual acuity to ≥ 0.2. The mean age at onset of these 15 patients with visual recovery to ≥ 0.2 was 17.5 ± 7.7 years, and that of the 46 patients without visual recovery to ≥ 0.2 was 25.0 ± 12.8 years (P = 0.02, Mann-Whitney U test). The mean lowest visual acuity of the 25 eyes with visual recovery ≥ 0.2 was 0.04, and that of the 97 eyes without visual recovery to ≥ 0.2 was 0.015 (P < 0.001, Mann-Whitney U test). Fifty percent (15/30) of the eyes whose lowest visual acuity was ≥ 0.04 during 1 year after the onset had a visual recovery to ≥ 0.2, while 11% (10/92) of the eyes whose the lowest visual acuity was ≤ 0.03 had a visual recovery to ≥ 0.2 (P < 0.001, χ 2 test). There were no significant differences in the other clinical factors.
Conclusion: A final visual acuity of ≥ 0.2 was associated with a less severe reduction of the visual acuity at 1 year after the onset. Our findings can be used to predict the visual prognosis in LHON patients.
Keywords: 11,778 mutation; Japanese; Leber hereditary optic neuropathy; Lowest visual acuity; Visual recovery.