Purpose: To evaluate the retinal phenotype and genetic features of Chinese patients with spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7).
Methods: Detailed ophthalmic examinations, including electroretinograms, fundus photography, fundus autofluorescence and optical coherence tomography, were performed to analyse the retinal lesions of patients with SCA7. A molecular genetic analysis was completed to confirm the number of CAG repeats in ATXN7 gene on the patients and their family members.
Results: Eight patients from three families with SCA7 were included in this study. Trinucleotide repeat was expanded from 43 to 113 in the affected patients. The affected patients were characterized by different degrees of cone-rod dystrophy, which is positively related to the number of CAG repeats and age. All patients complained of progressive bilateral visual loss, and most cases reported visual disturbance earlier than gait movement or dysarthria. A coarse granular appearance of the macular region on scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, hypofluorescence in the macula on autofluorescence, retinal atrophy on optic coherence tomography, depression of multifocal electroretinograms and prominent abnormalities in cone-mediated responses on electrograms are the general features of SCA7-related retinopathy. Hyperreflective dots in the outer retinal layers and choroidal vessel layers are a common sign in optic coherence tomography in the advanced stage.
Conclusions: SCA7 shows a cone-rod dystrophy phenotype. The multimodal imaging of the retina is beneficial to detect the early lesions of cone-rod dystrophy related to SCA7.
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