Interferon-α-induced retinopathy in chronic hepatitis C treatment: summary, considerations, and recommendations

  • Zubir S. Rentiya
  • Matthew Wells
  • Junun Bae
  • Kuan-Jen Chen
  • An-Ning Chao
  • Nicholas Turgeon
  • Syed M. Shah
  • Mostafa HanoutEmail author
Review Article


Interferons are cytokines that regulate the host’s response to viral infection, particularly in the setting of the immunologic response to the hepatitis C virus (HCV). While the virus has the ability to evade the host’s innate and specific immunity, exogenous interferon-α with combined ribavirin, treatments have been found to achieve a significant sustained viral response in subgroups of patients with chronic HCV. One of the major side effects of interferon-α is an ocular retinopathy characterized by flame-shaped hemorrhages and cotton wool spots visualized on funduscopic examination. There have been documented cases of more severe side effects including optic nerve and retinal artery damage; however, these instances are the minority. We sought to investigate the literature surrounding interferon-induced retinopathy, clinically correlate our findings with two recent cases, and provide recommendations for practitioners who continue to manage chronic HCV patients using interferon-α with combined ribavirin treatments.


Interferon Retinopathy Hepatitis C Macular edema Neuropathy Optical coherence tomography Ocular toxicity Fundoscopic imaging 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radiology, Neurology, OphthalmologyJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Lake Erie College of Osteopathic MedicineErieUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ophthalmology, Chang Gung Memorial HospitalChang Gung University, College of MedicineTaoyuanTaiwan
  4. 4.Department of OphthalmologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  5. 5.Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, Princess Margaret Hospital/University Health NetworkUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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