• Users Online: 713
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 189-191

Varicella zoster virus-associated neuroretinitis

1 Department of Ophthalmology, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, Hualien, Taiwan
2 Institute of Eye Research, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital; Institute of Medical Sciences, Tzu Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan

Date of Web Publication12-Apr-2017

Correspondence Address:
Rong-Kung Tsai
Institute of Eye Research, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, Tzu Chi University, Number 707, Section 3, Chung-Yang Road, 907 Hualien
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.1016/j.tjo.2014.10.001

Rights and Permissions

Varicella zoster virus-associated neuroretinitis is rare. We report a patient who presented with blurred vision of the left eye and extraocular movement pain. A fundoscopic examination revealed disc edema, hyperemia, and macular edema. The impression was neuroretinitis. Intravenous methylprednisolone pulse therapy was administered. However, visual recovery was incomplete with optical coherence to mography (OCT) imaging showing photoreceptor layer disruption. The laboratory data were rechecked and demonstrated a high varicella zoster virus immunoglobulin G titer. Varicella zoster virus-associated neuroretinitis was suspected and oral acyclovir was prescribed. His visual acuity improved to 0.9 after 2 weeks of treatment, and OCT showed photoreceptor layer restoration. Spectrum-domain OCT provides useful information when evaluating the disease course of neuroretinitis.

Keywords: acyclovir, neuroretinitis, optic coherence tomography, varicella zoster virus

How to cite this article:
Tsao WS, He MS, Tsai RK. Varicella zoster virus-associated neuroretinitis. Taiwan J Ophthalmol 2015;5:189-91

How to cite this URL:
Tsao WS, He MS, Tsai RK. Varicella zoster virus-associated neuroretinitis. Taiwan J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2019 Aug 24];5:189-91. Available from: http://www.e-tjo.org/text.asp?2015/5/4/189/204399

  1. Introduction Top

Most patients with varicella zoster virus (VZV) posterior segment involvement present with acute retinal necrosis or optic neuritis. Varicella zoster virus is not usually considered a causative agent of neuroretinitis, and therefore diagnostic tests are often not performed. We report the clinical findings of an unusual case of VZV-related neuroretinitis in a healthy adult.

  2. Case report Top

A 28-year-old male with no systemic diseases presented with blurred vision of his left eye with extraocular movement pain for 3 days. Ophthalmic examinations revealed that his best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) was 0.9 OD and 0.1 OS. The anterior segment was unremarkable, and the relative afferent pupillary defect of the left eye was positive. A fundoscopic examination revealed disc edema, hyperemia, and macular edema in his left eye [Figure 1]A. Spectrum-domain optical coherence tomography (OCT) demonstrated severe macular edema [Figure 2]A. He did not have a fever, trauma, or a history of animal contact. The laboratory data showed the patient was immunocompetent with a normal white blood cell count and differential count. The serologic test revealed that syphilis-rapid plasma reagin was nonreactive, Bartonella hen-selae immunoglobulin (Ig) G was negative, and toxoplasma IgM antibody was negative. Because of the patient’s immunocompetent state, we did not check for human immunodeficiency virus. The impression was neuroretinitis. He was admitted and received intravenous methylprednisolone pulse therapy at 500 mg twice daily for 3 days. After discharge, he continued taking oral pred-nisolone with gradual tapering off. The disc and macular edema improved; however, some lipid exudate deposits were present on the macula area [Figure 1]B. The OCT image revealed photoreceptor layer disruption [Figure 2]B. His BCVA gradually increased to 0.7 and remained stable for 1 month. We rechecked his history and found he had vesicles around his trunk during this episode of neuro-retinitis. Chickenpox was confirmed by a dermatologist. He had no history of varicella disease or vaccination. The laboratory data were rechecked and showed a high VZV IgG titer of 7075.91 mIU/mL, but was negative for herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 and HSV-2 IgM. Varicella zoster virus-associated neuroretinitis was suspected and oral acyclovir was prescribed. His BCVA improved to 0.9 after 2 weeks of treatment, and the lipid exudate on the macula area gradually decreased [Figure 1]C. Photoreceptor layer disruption also improved on OCT imaging [Figure 2]C.
Figure 1: Fundus photography. (A) Initial presentation shows disc edema, hyperemia, and macular edema. (B) Two months later, the disc and macular edema have improved with some lipid exudates on the macula area. (C) Three months later, the lipid exudates on the macula area have decreased.

Click here to view
Figure 2: Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography. (A) Initial presentation shows severe macular edema. (B) Two months later, the macular edema has improved, but photoreceptor layer is disrupted (arrow). (C) Three months later, the photoreceptor layer disruption has improved (arrow). Some residual exudates are present (arrowhead).

Click here to view

  3. Discussion Top

Cases of neuroretinitis have been reported in association with a wide variety of infectious agents.[1] When more common etiologies such as B. henselae and Toxocara canis have been excluded, other rare pathogens should be considered. Varicella zoster virus-associated isolated neuroretinitis is extremely rare. Only one case report in a 9-year-old child has been reported in the literature.[2] The typical posterior segment involvement of VZV presents as acute retinal necrosis.[3] There are also some case reports of VZV optic neuritis after herpes zoster ophthalmicus.[4],[5],[6] Cases of VZV poste rior segment infection have been reported in AIDS patients,[7],[8],[9] although it is uncommon in healthy adults.

The most sensitive method for confirming a diagnosis of vari cella is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which detects VZV in skin lesions. Positive serum IgM suggests a primary infection, reinfection, or reactivation of latent VZV. A four-fold rise in IgG in paired serum samples in the acute and convalescent phases has an excellent specificity for varicella, but this method is not as sensitive as PCR of skin lesions.[10] Polymerase chain reaction and IgM and IgG titers in the acute stage of our patient at the initial presentation were unfortunately not performed. Based on concurrent neuro-retinitis and varicella, and a high IgG titer in the late phase, we presumed that the patient’s neuroretinitis was associated with the VZV infection.

In the present case, the patient’s BCVA remained stable, although fundoscopic examinations revealed that the disc and macular edema gradually improved. The photoreceptor layer disruption on spectrum-domain OCT explained the condition. After undergoing combined treatment with oral steroids and antiviral agents, the disrupted layer was restored and his visual acuity (VA) increased.

Wong et al[11] reported that patients with VZV-induced acute retinal necrosis had a visual loss of 0.4 logMAR. In their report, adjunctive intravitreal foscarnet treatment reduced the risk of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment, compared to patients who received intravenous acyclovir treatment only.[11] Moorthy et al[8] demonstrated that VZV retinitis in immunocompromised pa tients had poor VA outcomes with an initial and final median VA of 0.5 and hand movements, respectively. Of 39 eyes examined, 19 (49%) eyes had no light perception at the last follow-up. The patients treated with a combination of intravenous ganciclovir and foscarnet therapy or ganciclovir alone had a significantly better final VA, compared to patients treated with acyclovir or foscarnet alone.[8] Visual outcomes are reportedly poor when steroids are used as monotherapy for optic neuritis in herpes zoster ophthalmicus.[12] Recent case reports have shown better visual outcomes when systemic acyclovir and steroids are pre-scribed.[5],[6] MacKinnon et al[2] reported a case of VZV neuroretinitis in a 9-year-old child. The patient had blurred vision of the right eye with a VA of 0.01, after an episode of varicella. In addition, the right disc was hyperemic with peripapillary swelling and hemorrhaging, and the macular area was pale and edematous. Intravenous acyclovir and methylprednisolone were adminis tered; however his final VA did not improve beyond 0.8. The right disc was pale and a yellow lipid deposit was present at the macula.

Our patient received systemic steroids in the acute phase, and his VA improved from 0.1 to 0.7. After oral acyclovir treatment in the late phase, his VA further increased to 0.9. However, we could not tell whether the good prognosis resulted from the therapy or was the natural course of the disease. The patient’s VA moderately improved without antiviral drugs in the early stage. Further case collections are needed to clarify the best treatment for VZV neu-roretinitis. In conclusion, VZV-associated neuroretinitis is rare. Spectrum-domain OCT provides useful information when evalu ating the disease course of neuroretinitis.

  References Top

Purvin V, Sundaram S, Kawasaki A. Neuroretinitis: review of the literature and new observations. J Neuroophthalmol. 2011;31:58–68.  Back to cited text no. 1
MacKinnon JR, Lim Joon T, Elder JE. Chickenpox neuroretinitis in a 9 year old child. Br J Ophthalmol. 2002;86:475–476.  Back to cited text no. 2
Yoser SL, Forster DJ, Rao NA. Systemic viral infections and their retinal and choroidal manifestations. Surv Ophthalmol. 1993;37:313–352.  Back to cited text no. 3
de Mello Vitor B, Foureaux EC, Porto FB. Herpes zoster optic neuritis. Int Ophthalmol. 2011;31:233–236.  Back to cited text no. 4
Wang AG, Liu JH, Hsu WM, Lee AF, Yen MY. Optic neuritis in herpes zoster ophthalmicus. Jpn JOphthalmol. 2000;44:550–554.  Back to cited text no. 5
Hong SM, Yang YS. A case of optic neuritis complicating herpes zoster oph-thalmicus in a child. Korean J Ophthalmol. 2010;24:126–130.  Back to cited text no. 6
Lee MS, Cooney EL, Stoessel KM, Gariano RF. Varicella zoster virus retrobulbar optic neuritis preceding retinitis in patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Ophthalmology. 1998;105:467–471.  Back to cited text no. 7
Moorthy RS, Weinberg DV, Teich SA, et al. Management of varicella zoster virus retinitis in AIDS. Br J Ophthalmol. 1997;81:189–194.  Back to cited text no. 8
Liu JZ, Brown P, Tselis A. Unilateral retrobulbar optic neuritis due to varicella zoster virus in a patient with AIDS: a case report and review of the literature. JNeurol Sci. 2005;237:97–101.  Back to cited text no. 9
Leung J, Harpaz R, Baughman AL, et al. Evaluation of laboratory methods for diagnosis of varicella. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;51:23–32.  Back to cited text no. 10
Wong R, Pavesio CE, Laidlaw DA, Williamson TH, Graham EM, Stanford MR. Acute retinal necrosis: the effects of intravitreal foscarnet and virus type on outcome. Ophthalmology. 2010;117:556–560.  Back to cited text no. 11
Gunduz K, Ozdemir O. Bilateral retrobulbar neuritis following unilateral herpes zoster ophthalmicus. Ophthalmologica. 1994;208:61–64.  Back to cited text no. 12


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

This article has been cited by
1 Molecular diagnosis and ocular imaging of varicella zoster virus associated neuroretinitis
Rene Y. Choi,Andreas Lauer,James T. Rosenbaum
American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports. 2018; 11: 146
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
1. Introduction
2. Case report
3. Discussion
Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded34    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal