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Ocular manifestations of onchocerciasis in a rain forest area of west Africa.
  1. H S Newland,
  2. A T White,
  3. B M Greene,
  4. R P Murphy and
  5. H R Taylor
  1. Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology, Wilmer Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.


    The epidemiology and natural history of onchocerciasis and its ocular complications in rain forest areas are poorly understood. The present study was conducted on a rubber plantation in a hyperendemic area in the rain forest of Liberia, West Africa, where 800 persons were examined. The prevalence of infection was 84% overall 29% had intraocular microfilariae, and 2.4% were blind in one or both eyes. Onchocerciasis was the cause of all binocular blindness and one-third of all visual impairment. Over half of the visual impairment caused by onchocerciasis was due to posterior segment diseases. Chorioretinal changes were present in 75% of people, and included intraretinal pigment clumping in 52% and retinal pigment epithelium atrophy in 32%. Atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium was associated with increasing age and severity of infection. Intraretinal pigment was strongly associated with anterior uveitis. There was a strong correlation between uveitis and the inflammatory chorioretinal sequelae: retinitis, intraretinal pigment, subretinal fibrosis, and optic neuropathy. These findings indicate that considerable visual impairment associated with rain forest onchocerciasis is common and is due largely to chorioretinal disease.

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