Bilateral vision loss due to Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy after long-term alcohol, nicotine and drug abuse



Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy is relatively rare, and no clinical pathognomonic signs exist. We present a rare case of bilateral vision loss of a patient with multiple drug abuse in the history.


A 31-year-old man presented with a history of progressive, decreased vision in both eyes for 6 month. On examination, his visual acuity was hand motion in both eyes. Funduscopy demonstrated a temporal pallor of the optic disc. Goldmann visual field perimetry showed a crescent visual field in the right eye and a circular decrease to less than 50 ° in the left eye. Electroretinogram showed a scotopic b-wave amplitude reduction. Optical coherence tomographies, Heidelberg Retina tomography, visual evoked potentials, and magnetic resonance imaging with contrast as well as blood tests were normal. The patient reported to consume various kinds of drugs as well as recreational drug use and alcohol consumption since he was 16 years old. We started a hemodilution therapy, believing the patient suffered from a bilateral, toxic optic neuropathy due to his lifestyle. Laboratory results later on showed Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy.

Conclusion and importance

Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy is a rare disease without a typical, pathognomonic presentation. Even though the patient gave good reasons for a toxic optic neuropathy, one should never stop to test for other diseases.

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Correspondence to Johanna Maass.

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Maass, J., Matthé, E. Bilateral vision loss due to Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy after long-term alcohol, nicotine and drug abuse. Doc Ophthalmol 136, 145–153 (2018).

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  • Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy
  • Orphan disease
  • No clinical pathognomonic signs
  • Bilateral vision loss
  • Drug abuse