Congenital rubella syndrome has a wide variety of severe ophthalmic and systemic complications. A worldwide rubella epidemic from 1963 to 1965 affected thousands of infants. This is a 20 year follow up study of patients with congenital rubella syndrome analysing the prevalence of ophthalmic disorders, associated systemic problems, and correlations among these defects. The authors statistically analysed 125 cases of congenital rubella seen in the Mayo clinic ophthalmology department over a 32 year interval. Most patients were young adults. Ocular disease was the most commonly noted disorder (78%), followed by sensorineural hearing deficits (66%), psychomotor retardation (62%), cardiac abnormalities (58%), and mental retardation (42%). Multiorgan disease was typical (88%). Ocular disease and hearing loss were frequently associated (53% had both) but not significantly correlated. A similar association existed between ocular and cardiac disease. Cataracts and microphthalmia were significantly correlated with poor visual acuity (each p < 0.0001). Glaucoma was significantly correlated with cataracts (p = 0.0002) and microphthalmia (p = 0.0024) but not poor visual acuity. Four patients with microphthalmia developed late onset glaucoma. No significant association was found between gestational age at time of maternal infection and the incidence of individual ocular conditions. However, several cardiac disorders were significantly associated with gestational age. Although new cases of congenital rubella are rare, surviving victims continue to challenge the ophthalmic and medical communities with a wide range of ocular and systemic disorders.
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