A team of doctors in the UK is suggesting that vision loss may be an under-reported effect of the Chikungunya virus or Chik-V.
Chik-V, devastated Jamaica and the Caribbean last year.
The doctors have submitted a case study of a British woman who became partially blind in her right eye after contracting Chik-V during a visit to Grenada last July.
Two British based ophthalmologists treated the woman at the Queen’s Hospital in the UK last year.
Their findings were published last month in the medical journal, BMJ Case Reports.
The 69-year-old woman is reported to have visited Grenada in July 2014.
During her stay, she was bitten by mosquitoes and showed Chik-V related symptoms.
She also developed muscle weakness in her face and received steroids from a local doctor to treat it.
The woman returned to the UK in August.
Although most of her symptoms had improved, the doctors say she began experiencing difficulty seeing with her right eye.
According to the report, the woman’s central vision was fine at first.
But within days, her 20-20 vision diminished to just 20-80, and she could only read to the third line down on the eye chart.
A blood test confirmed that the patient had Chik-V, but the doctors still had to rule out other possible causes of her vision loss.
As soon as further tests ruled out other conditions, the doctors prescribed steroids to treat the woman’s optic nerve, which had become swollen as part of her body’s reaction to Chik-V.
But by then it was too late.
During the six days it took for doctors to run all the tests and prescribe the steroids, about half of the nerve cells in the patient’s optic nerve had died.
The woman’s vision loss is said to be permanent.
Although this is the first known case of a woman in the United Kingdom developing this problem, doctors elsewhere have noted eye problems in people infected with Chik-V.
Experts say it is not known how often Chik-V infections may lead to eye problems.
A report on the website ‘Live Science’, quotes Dr Aileen Marty, director of the Florida International University Health Travel Medicine Program and Vaccine Clinic.
Dr. Marty says it’s underreported because people don’t do the studies to figure out if it’s Chik-V or another infection.
Meanwhile, the authors of the report say the woman’s case could help doctors understand that eye-problem complications associated with Chik-V should be treated within days.