Open Access Highly Accessed Case report

Radiation Retinopathy: Case report and review

Abha Gupta*, Felipe Dhawahir-Scala, Amy Smith, Lorna Young and Steve Charles

Author Affiliations

Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, Lister House, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK, M13 9WH

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BMC Ophthalmology 2007, 7:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2415-7-6

Published: 5 April 2007



Ocular damage from radiation treatment is a well established phenomenon. Many factors are now known to influence the incidence of radiation retinopathy, including total dosage and daily fraction size. Patients who are diabetic, hypertensive or received previous chemotherapy are more susceptible to radiation retinopathy.

Case Presentation

A 55 year old male was referred from the oncology department with epiphora. His medical history included Type 2 Insulin treated Diabetes Mellitus and hypertension. One year prior to presentation he had undergone a total rhinectomy with a 4 week course of post-operative radiotherapy for an aggressive sqaumous cell carcinoma of the nose. On examination the visual acuity was noted to be 6/36 left eye and 6/9 right eye. Posterior segment examination revealed marked retinal ischaemia present in the posterior pole and macular region of both eyes. The appearance was not thought to be typical of diabetic changes, radiation retinopathy being the more likely diagnosis especially in view of his history. Over the next four months the vision in both eyes rapidly deteriorated to 3/60 left eye and 1/60 right eye. Bilateral pan retinal photocoagulation was thought to be appropriate treatment at this point.


This case highlights the importance for ophthalmologists and oncologists to be aware of the close relationship between diabetes and radiation treatment and the profound rapid impact this combination of factors may have on visual function. Radiation is being used with increasing frequency for ocular and orbital disease, because of this more cases of radiation retinopathy may become prevalent. Factors which may potentiate radiation retinopathy should be well known including, increased radiation dosage, increased fraction size, concomitant systemic vascular disease and use of chemotherapy. Counselling should be offered in all cases at risk of visual loss. As no effective treatment currently exists to restore visual function, monitoring of visual acuity in all cases and early referral to the ophthalmologist as appropriate is warranted.